Yesterday, Gary Bettman told a group of sports business leaders that the NHL is currently working on a plan that can bring teams back to play safely. This plan involves looking into 8 potential arenas, preferably ones in which the NHL already plays, locations that meet a certain set of criteria.
This plan would involve having up to 12 teams play all their games at a certain arena, with multiple games being played daily between the teams. NHL arenas are already set up with multiple locker rooms which allow for rotation of teams in and out while other rooms are sanitized in between use.
Another of the criteria involves housing, requirements that hotels can safely accommodate multiple teams of players, coaching staff, training staff, and other team staff. With 12 teams, these numbers can add up quickly.
Bettman stressed that part of this return would require having independent medical staff able to determine that players don’t test positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, so as to not take testing or medical personnel away from the communities.
“I am told that there can be enough capacity, and certainly over the next couple of months, there will be more capacity,” Commissioner Bettman said. “But that is a fundamental question, and we certainly can’t be jumping the line in front of medical needs.”
At this point, there is no timeline. The NHL has the ability to push back the start of next season into December. At this point, Bettman wants to award the Stanley Cup to the ultimate victor of the 2019-2020 season, and he may be forced to do so due to television contractual obligations. While owners will not see gate proceeds from Stanley Cup Playoff games due to prohibitions on large crowds due to the pandemic, the league and it’s partners will not have to pay back certain monies to broadcast partners.