5th December 2020

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Coronavirus: NHL willing to delay next season by two months


The NHL remains intent on completing this season when health experts deem it safe to resume play and the league is willing to delay the start of next season by two months or more to accomplish that, Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday. However, he again said no decisions have been made on a timetable or format and that the league and the NHL Players’ Assn. will continue to consider many potential options for returning.

“We have a great deal of flexibility in terms of when we can start,” he said during an interview with the NHL Network. “There’s no magic for next season of starting in October as we traditionally do. If we have to start in November or December, that’s something that will be under consideration.

“We’re going to try and make good, prudent, careful judgments. This isn’t a race to be first back. When we come back, we want it to be at the right time, for the right reasons, under the right circumstances.”

Bettman paused the season on March 12 in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Players, coaches and staffers remain under an indefinite self-quarantine directive. Many have left their team’s city, including many European players who have returned to their respective homelands.

The league and the NHLPA issued a joint statement Wednesday in which they said if “conditions continue to trend favorably,” it might be possible to enter Phase 2 of a return to operation. That phase would entail players participating in small-group workouts at their team’s facilities in mid-May or late May, with precise details to be announced nearer that time.

Team workouts and a training camp of two to three weeks would logically follow that. Bettman called discussions with the players’ union on how to proceed “extraordinarily collaborative.”

Bettman has previously said he has no problem with staging games in July and August, and that could happen even if the league scraps the 15% of the regular-season schedule that remained when he halted play. The Stanley Cup playoffs have never before taken place beyond late June.

“We miss the game,” Bettman said. “We miss our fans. We miss watching our players play every night. We’d be in the middle of the playoffs right now. We’re focused on trying to do the right things for the good of the game, so we can get back and connect with our great fans as soon as possible.

“But as soon as possible means under the right circumstances, and for that we’re going to take our guidance from the governments at all levels and from the medical people.”




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