At some point the NHL will have to consider cancelling the season

Since March 12th, the messaging after the announcement of the “pause” has been positive in tone. The NHL led by Gary Bettman has talked about their determination to award the Stanley Cup. They have gone so far as to ask teams to check for arena availability in August. While we all want to be optimistic in these uncertain times, if the resumption of play goes past June, will it really be feasible?

“I’m a little hesitant to use the word suspension, because our hope and our expectation is, when things get back to normal and it’s safe and it’s prudent, that we can go back and resume the season and ultimately have the Stanley Cup awarded.”

Gary Bettman

Playoffs with Integrity

Whether it be Bettman, or his right hand man, Bill Daly the message from the league has been consistent. Even the head of the NHLPA, Don Fehr and the players have been on the same page. Get back to a semblance of play and compete for the Cup. Contracts expiring on July 1st, and the NHL Draft be damned, we will deal with that later. Of course, whatever they decide there needs to be a level of integrity to how they move forward.

“What integrity means in the context of a playoff tournament, there’s a couple different aspects to that. Is a single-elimination game in the context of our sport, is that really fair? And maybe it is fair, but maybe it’s fair in some contexts of the playoffs and not in others. So you want to come up with a format that you think is fair for the participating teams but also has integrity in terms of producing a deserving winner.”

Daly via NHL.com

Dealing with Reality

Bettman (Sandford/Getty Images)

Gary Bettman also did a Q&A with the Hockey News on a number of questions with regards to COVID-19, particularly the NHL’s role and handling of the situation. When it came to moving forward with the latest CDC recommendations, here’s what Bettman said.

We are absorbing all of the information that’s out there. We take it seriously, as I said. In terms of where we go from here, we’re modelling all sorts of options and everything is on the table. But we’re going to have to be flexible and react to things that are beyond our control.

Bettman via THN

Since that interview conducted on March 18th, 4 NHL players, Blues announcer John Kelly, and the owner of the Rangers James Dolan have tested positive for the coronavirus. As the pause is expected to last at least through April, how many more involved in the league will he added to that list? As of now, there is no mandate to test players, but would it not be prudent to do so before any resumption of play?

Other Leagues Have Already Cancelled

Many other hockey leagues, obviously not as financially strong as the NHL have cancelled their seasons. The biggest being the KHL making the difficult decision to do so just recently on the 25th. So at what point will the NHL say they’ve reached the point of no return? That feels like the one question no one has asked.

The reality here is that the NHL did not announce their postponement until after the NBA did. So it would also be prudent to keep an eye on news coming from there to see what Gary Bettman will ultimately decide. According to recent published reports, NBA execs are talking about cancelling the regular season and doing a tournament in Vegas to award a championship.

How long before we hear something similar from NHL executives? How long before we reach that point where it will negatively impact future seasons? Just like we hope to flatten the curve, we will just have to wait and see. Let’s end on this note, do your part and stay home. God Bless all health care professionals and first responders. Thank you to all the farmers, grocers, and delivery drivers. We love you.