NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday that the League is exploring every reasonable option for resuming the 2019-20 season and ensuring that it is ready to fully spring into action as soon as the “green light” is given by authorities and medical professionals.
“From an NHL standpoint, and I’m sure this is what the other leagues are doing, we’re viewing all of our options,” Commissioner Bettman said on “Lunch Talk Live” on NBCSN. “We want to be ready to go as soon as we get a green light, and the green light may not be crystal clear because there may still be some places in the country you can’t play and other places where you can.
“We’re looking at all options. Nothing has been ruled in, nothing has been ruled out. It’s largely going to be determined what we do by how much time there is, because we have next season to focus on as well, and the health of the country, and by the country, I mean both Canada and the U.S., obviously.”
Commissioner Bettman said he hopes to know more by the end of April. The NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
If the NHL can come back this season, Commissioner Bettman said the players will require “at least a couple of weeks” to get ready.
“That’s something we’re consulting and will be continuing to consult with the [NHL] Players’ Association on,” Commissioner Bettman said. “As important as health and well-being is now, and that’s paramount over everything and when and how we play sports, but when we come back, we have to make sure we don’t do anything to jeopardize the players in terms of their ability to play and making sure they’re in game-ready shape. That all goes into the equation.”
Commissioner Bettman said he believes the window for the NHL season can extend “well into the summer” in part because NBC, the League’s U.S.-based national television partner, has an opening in August because the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed.
He said he’s not concerned about ice conditions if games must be played in July and August.
“The days of when games had to be postponed because there was no air conditioning in a building are long behind us,” Commissioner Bettman said. “We have modern, state-of-the-art buildings. We play in places like Florida, Southern California, Arizona, Las Vegas, Dallas. We can handle making ice now in any condition because our buildings are that good and our ice-making capability is that good. We play outdoors when it’s warm sometimes. Ice won’t be a factor. It’ll be something we deal with, but it’ll be the least of the issues we’re focused on.”