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The NHL‘s season has been suspended since Thursday, March 12, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a timetable for the resumption of play is uncertain as the disease continues its spread worldwide.
If the NHL is in position to resume the 2019-20 campaign, however, then the league would prefer playing regular-season games before moving onto the postseason, per Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic.
“We understand that with what will obviously be a lengthy break between games, players are going to want to have an ability to re-acclimatize themselves to NHL competition before having to play games that could end their seasons quickly,“ NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said via email to LeBrun.
“I’m sure our managers feel the same way. We get it and we will certainly go to great lengths to accommodate those concerns.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman reportedly agrees, per LeBrun, saying on a conference call to league governors Monday that the league wants regular-season action if possible.
The league is also open to finishing out a truncated regular season, whereas teams could play either 74 or 78 games as opposed to a full 82.
All NHL teams have played between 69-71 games thus far with the exception of the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders, who have 68 apiece.
The latest figures from the World Health Organization show a flattening of new COVID-19 cases around the world and in the United States, but there have still been at least 1,439,516 confirmed cases worldwide and at least 85,711 deaths.
The U.S. alone saw 31,709 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday.
It’s unclear when society will return to some semblance of normal or when a vaccine will be created and approved for use.
Of note, California Governor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that he wasn’t sure when the state’s stay-at-home orders would be rescinded, per Taryn Luna of the Los Angeles Times.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced significant restrictions and closings Wednesday, including ordering employees and customers of essential stores to wear masks and shutting down all state and county parks.
That makes predicting the future of the NHL’s 2019-20 season rather difficult, although it may be able to buy some more time.
LeBrun noted that the NHL and NHLPA are willing to delay next season if it means finishing this one out, which could mean hockey in September. Perhaps by late summer, people are allowed to gather in smaller groups, enabling games to be played without fans.
The NHL regular season left off on a dramatic note, with heated divisional and playoff races and Washington Capitals wing Alexander Ovechkin going for his ninth scoring title.
The Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues, last year’s Stanley Cup participants, led the Eastern and Western Conferences in points, respectively.