NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr said that he has not had any discussions with the NHL about possible neutral-site spots to resume the 2019-20 season this summer after it was paused on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Numerous places like Manchester, New Hampshire, and North Dakota have made pitches as possible spots.
“Other than the general understanding that they’re looking at all possibilities, which includes neutral sites — neutral being defined as a place that isn’t a home base for an NHL team,” Fehr told ESPN. “We haven’t had those discussions yet.”
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told the site that the league has not made a list of possible locations yet.
Fehr said the NHLPA is aware of the ethical concerns of having an NHL event in a rural area where there are no stay-at-home orders.
“Obviously, it would seem to me that the governors or the prime ministers of any such locations, for them to be interested, would have first and foremost in their mind the health and safety of their own residents,” Fehr said.
He acknowledged that the decision about the resumption of the season will depend on travel restrictions, if the NHL is labeled as an essential business like it would be in Florida, and mass gatherings.
Given the inconsistency of the guidelines on those items — where even neighboring states have two different standards — Fehr said a “green light” to restart the season will have input from “some combination” of local and federal government.
“You’re going to want to know what the CDC says, without any question at all. But in addition to that, as we all know, the state governors and the provincial premiers have the basic responsibilities over their own jurisdictions, so you’re going to have to work with them too,” Fehr said. “The implication of the question is whether it’s OK to play in some places and not others. I don’t know if that’s true. I assume it’s certainly possible. If it is, we’ll see what makes sense.”
There is also the border issue. Many NHL players have gone back home to Europe to self-quarantine at home but Fehr was confident about the possibility of bringing them back to North America this summer if needed. He did acknowledge, however, that “it’s going to be very difficult to do anything” if borders between the United States and Canada remain closed.
“We obviously have our own resources, our own lawyers in both countries — the U.S. and Canada,” Fehr said. “The NHL obviously has its own people, and as you know, employers ordinarily have the primary responsibility for visas and exit and entry of people that have work permits and so on. So we’ll do that.”
NHL players are getting their 2018-19 escrow return next week so they are getting funds there, according to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun.
NHL players have deferred their decision on the last paycheque until May 15. Sense is this will allow more time for the NHL and NHLPA to figure out if there will be games this season… Players have been debating whether to forgo some or all of the last paycheque to help escrow
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) April 18, 2020
By Harrison Brown