NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman appeared Monday night on ESPN in a virtual commissioners’ ‘Return to Sports’ roundtable with representatives from other major professional sports, including the NFL’s Roger Goodell, MLB’s Rob Manfred, NBA’s Adam Silver, MLS’ Don Garber and WNBA’s Cathy Engelbert.
Bettman noted that the next few weeks will be filled with travel for a majority of NHL players in order that they be in position for training camps set for July 10 and to deal with possible local quarantine requirements.
“Actually, 56 per cent of our players, roughly, aren’t in the places where their teams play and there’ll be training camp,” Bettman said in an interview with ESPN’s Mike Greenberg on Monday night. “So we’ve got a lot of people to move around and we have to get people back from outside of North America.”
Facing a possible 14-day quarantine when they return, that would mean that NHL players would have to return to their team’s city by June 25 in order to be ready to participate in the opening of training camps on July 10 as scheduled.
NHL players who need work visas extended through the post-season were “strongly encouraged” last week to return to Canada or the United States (depending on which of the two countries they play in) by June 21.
Capitals players currently not in the area: Tom Wilson (Toronto), T.J. Oshie (Minnesota), Nic Dowd (Minnesota), Nick Jensen (Minisota), Dmitry Orlov (Russia), Nicklaus Backstrom (Sweden), Ilya Samsonov (Russia), Jakub Vrana (Czech Republic), Michal Kempny (Czech Republic), Radko Gudas (Czech Republic), Ilya Kovulchuk (Los Angeles), Brenden Dillon (Minnesota), Jonas Siegenthaler (Switzerland), Richard Panik (Czech Republic), Garnet Hathaway (New York), Martin Fehervary (Slovakia), Travis Boyd (Minnesota) and Carl Hagelin (Sweden).
Bettman also shed some light on the league’s planned approach for testing. “Players are going to be tested everyday as will the supporting personnel…We’re being told an isolated case or a couple of isolated cases shouldn’t interfere with the plans and we should be able to move forward.”
Bettman acknowledged that players will go “the longest they have ever not skated,” but reiterated that the NHL’s 24-team return to play format will uphold the integrity of a Stanley Cup championship.
He said since the format includes four rounds of best-of-seven series, after the play-in and round-robin series are completed, is “what it takes, generally, to determine the Stanley Cup champion” in any given spring.
“And I think everybody can feel good, based on the combination of the play-in round and the way we’re gonna run the playoffs, that this will be a full competition which will bring out the best in our teams and our players, and the Stanley Cup Champion will be deserving of that crown and the most storied trophy in all of sports,” Bettman said.
By Jon Sorensen