Gary Bettman did a media appearance on Friday, and as expected, he has no real answers to all the questions we can think up about this NHL season and what happens next.
Chris Johnston tweeted the highlights:
Gary Bettman tells @Sportsnet's Hockey Central that the NHL is doing "all sorts of modelling" about what the rest of the season might look like depending on when they're able to resume. Mentions a range of possibilities under consideration.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 13, 2020
Gary Bettman: "I'm expecting next season to be a normal season."— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 13, 2020
Gary Bettman: "My hope and expectation is that we can finish the season in some form and award the Stanley Cup."— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 13, 2020
I think it’s useful to look at the NBA’s letter to fans from Adam Silver now too:
Text of the first paragraph:
As you know, we have temporarily suspended our season in response to the coronavirus pandemic. We made this decision to safeguard the health and well-being of fans, players, everyone connected to our game and the general public. This hiatus will last at least 30 days and we intend to resume the season, if and when it becomes safe for all concerned.
At about the same time Bettman was on Sportsnet, Bob McKenzie was on Leafs Lunch, and he’s always worth listening to:
“If normalcy is restored in a few months, hockey in July is possible.”
What McKenzie emphasizes and what Silver came out and said is that this is not a situation that will return to normal in two weeks. The one month from the NBA is likely wildly optimistic. But a season, in some form, can be fit into the summer months if that becomes possible. The Cup can be hoisted this year.
There are two times in the 20th and 21st century, the modern era of the Stanley Cup’s history, where it was not awarded. In 1919, because of the influenza pandemic that affected hundreds of millions of people worldwide, the playoffs were cancelled when too many players fell ill. The second time there was no cup was in the 2004-2005 lockout season. It’s too soon to say if this is the third time or not.
In the interim, players are not sure what they should be doing:
As the NHL/NHLPA work through the guidelines for this period where the league is paused, the focus is on a multi-stepped approach: What needs to happen for players to go from now (self quarantine) to informal workouts/skates to organized team activity before play can resume.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 13, 2020
Following "self quarantine" period, the NHL is hopeful to be in a position to transition - first to re-open team facilities for players to work on conditioning, then a "training camp period" where practices are scheduled and game preparation can resume.— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) March 13, 2020
It is a foregone conclusion that all remaining international hockey events run by the IIHF will be cancelled, including the Men’s World Championships scheduled for May. We will get the formal announcement on that next week likely. That leaves the KHL and related leagues as still operating semi-normally in their playoffs.
Now there will be nothing to do but wait.
The NHL Scouting Combine is scheduled to be held in Buffalo at the end of May/early June. It usually falls right after the Memorial Cup, but the CHL is in suspended animation like the NHL. If leagues resume play, then a whole new schedule has to be invented. It’s impossible to guess right now when the NHL draft might be held, and what pre-draft scouting opportunities anyone will have.
If leagues do resume, they will all be inventing new regular season and/or playoff formats to fit into the time allotted, and the NHL might need to extend the season end date from June 30 to some time in the future to keep players under contract. The cap situation for this year will be thornier than next, in terms of real revenues likely falling short.
Of course, NHL players will almost certainly face significant escrow withholdings above the current rate of 14% once the business gets up and running again.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 13, 2020
But that’s yet another problem to be solved when and if the season resumes.
Even if Adam Silver’s optimistic sounding timeline comes to pass, there won’t be hockey in March, and there won’t be hockey for most of April. Maybe May? Maybe that should be our motto for now. Maybe May.