Could the NHL come back sooner if it used neutral sites to play games in empty arenas around the country? That’s one option the NHL has been considering. But are they actually going to do that?
A couple weeks ago, the NHL was reportedly considering using neutral sites to finish out the regular season and to start the playoffs. These neutral sites were to be in areas of the country that supposedly were not as greatly affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Two sites that were considered were the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, North Dakota and the SNHU Center in Manchester, New Hampshire. Apparently, the league had already started talking to NH Governor Sununu before abandoning the plan due to a lack of acommodations for players, staff, and broadcast partners.
Now, according to Greg Wyshynski of ESPN, it looks like the league is considering the idea of regional neutral NHL arenas for teams to play their remaining slate of games and possibly playoffs with only the teams and staff present for games.
Instead, the league is looking at regional NHL arenas, aligned by division, where teams could potentially finish their seasons. Sources told ESPN that the current favorites are the home rinks for the Carolina Hurricanes (Metropolitan Division), Edmonton Oilers (Pacific Division) and Minnesota Wild (Central Division). A front-runner from the Atlantic Division has yet to emerge.
Currently, NHL players are under self-quarantine orders through the end of April, with league officials expecting that they will extend that through May as the virus continues to be a factor. The league hopes that teams will be able to convene and start practicing again in June. In an interview with Ron MacLean on Sportsnet, Gary Bettman said that if the league plays at these sites, then there would be 3 games per day at each site.
It will be curious to see how this all shakes out but it looks like it’s confirmed that there will be summer hockey of some sort, which will push back the start of the 2020-2021 regualr season. One thing thatt we pretty much know, and that David Krejci seemed bummed about: the Bruins will probably not be in Prague this fall to start their 2020-2021 season.
Suck it, ‘rona!