League Commissioner Gary Bettman joined NHL Network on Thursday to discuss the latest updates from the league as action has been paused since March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic. There has been all sorts of speculation brewing over the past couple of weeks on potential formats to resume the 2019-20 season but the league said that nothing is set in stone in a statement released on Wednesday.
“Having the committee that’s been put together with the players is important so that we can get the feedback on the issues that are important to them and how to resolve them, and that we can be communicating how we’re focusing on the things we think that need to be done,” Bettman said. “It’s been extraordinarily collaborative, constructive and cooperative, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the interaction that we’re having.”
Bettman says that he speaks to NHLPA executive director Don Fehr on a regular basis. The NHL and the Players’ Association have made a Return to Play Committee that includes executives and players.
Bettman was unsure of how close the NHL is towards resuming the season, saying “I don’t think anybody knows for certain. We’re going to have to take things one step at a time, because the health and well-being of our players is paramount to anything we’re focused on.”
“We’d like to be able to get our training facilities open,” he continued. “We’d like our guys to be able to work themselves back into shape. But this is something we’re going to continue to evaluate on a day-to-day basis.
Bettman said the NHL and the players association would wait for the right time to resume this season and starting the 2020-21 campaign as well.
There are two concerns for the NHL about returning, per Bettman: 1) the coronavirus and 2) the players getting back into shape. “We’re going to continue to monitor things, and when the guidance from the medical people is right and the governmental authorities are comfortable, then we’ll take step one, which is reopening our training facilities,” he said.
“We have a great deal of flexibility in terms of when we can start,” the commissioner said. “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.”
Commissioner Bettman said the status of the pandemic is the key factor in everything that the NHL and the NHLPA are currently pondering.
To the NHL fans across the planet, the Commissioner said “We miss the game. We miss our fans. We miss watching our players play every night. … 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,” he concluded with.
By Harrison Brown