The NHL and NHLPA’s determination to award the Cup is more about next season

“We are all in this together” has been the rally cry against COVID-19. While many States are prepping to reopen, New York is still not ready. The good news for sports fans is that many States have flattened the curve but there are still too many hot spots, which is why so much is focused on phasing in. The NHL and NHLPA recognize this and continue to forge ahead on a plan to return. The logical question some may have is, “why take the risk?” Many fans are ready to just cancel this season and start fresh in September. Well that’s the issue.

Return to Play Committee

While almost every Government Agency either at the Federal or Local level has a task-force, so do many businesses. Almost all the top companies have Business Continuity plans and have set up COVID-19 committees of their own. The NHL and NHLPA are no different and have created a Return to Play Committee focused on working out all the details to play again this season.

Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, and senior VPs Colin Campbell and Steve Hatze Petros represent the NHL, while the NHLPA is represented by Don Fehr, Mathieu Schneider, general counsel Don Zavelo, divisional rep Steve Webb, and active players John Tavares, Connor McDavid, James van Riemsdyk, Mark Scheifele and Ron Hainsey. Medical advisers from both the league and union are added to the calls when appropriate.


We are already aware that the NHL is vetting at least 12 NHL Cities to select 4 that will represent each Division across the U.S. and Canada. Places like Florida, Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Toronto have all been mentioned. Now the NHLPA will likely work with the league to select the 4 Cities and figure out logistics to pull this off.

Lonely Puck (Rich Lam/Getty Images)

It’s About Next Season Too

All the talk about getting back to play and awarding the Stanley Cup is what almost everyone is focusing on. The business reality is that the players are currently in line to get one more check and the playoffs are when owners make the big profits. The fact that there’s really no scenario where they can play with fans in the stands is fine for now. Bettman and company have their TV contracts and will just have to figure out how to deal with the financial losses.

Recently, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun spoke to a league executive under the condition of anonymity and was told the following:

“It’s vastly different trying to open up next season without fans,” the executive said. “You can play made for TV playoffs because the players have already been paid and they don’t get any money for the playoffs but trying to open up next season with no fans makes no sense…From Day One next season, you’re paying 100% of the players’ salaries and there’s no offset for your salaries. Trying to open next year without fans is just not going to happen, let’s put it that way.”

Ottawa Sun

So when you digest the executive’s comments you understand that cancelling the season and trying to open camp in September and play without fans until maybe November is a no-go. This is why the NHL and NHLPA are hell bent on concluding this season, even if it means handing out the Cup in late August or early September. Simply put, even if they were to cancel the remainder of this year, they financially can’t open up come October without ticket revenue.

For the diehard hockey fans, there really isn’t a question here. They want hockey back. They are patient and can wait for the playoffs to start in June or July. A short break to a quick turnaround in November where they can return to their home team’s rocking arenas will be worth the wait as well.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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