The NHL has not reached the point where it has ruled out finishing the regular season and staging the Stanley Cup Playoffs in full, after pausing the season March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think as time has gone on, we’ve recognized we might have a bigger window than we had originally thought with respect to the summer months and when we have to finish things to be ready for a full regular season next year,” Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Friday.
The International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, opening TV time on NBC networks in July and August. The NHL has asked teams for arena availability through the end of August.
“I will say that it remains our hope, if not our goal, to be playing hockey sooner than then,” Daly said. “Depending on how things play out, we’d love to be playing sometime in the spring, and then if we have to leak into early summer, we’d love to have that problem. But I don’t think we’re far enough along in understanding where this is going to know what’s possible at this point in time. …
“We think if we were required to, we might have the ability to play in August. If we have to fit games in, we’ll find ways to fit games in.”
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The NHL has reached the end of the original two-week period it directed players to self-quarantine. The period now extends through at least April 4.
Three players have tested positive for the virus: two from the Ottawa Senators and one from the Colorado Avalanche. Daly said others have tested negative and others have test results pending. He declined to give specific numbers but said they were “very low, relatively speaking.”
“We’re getting a handle on the overall health of the NHL community, and I think by all accounts, we’re relatively healthy, knock on wood,” Daly said. “I think that bodes well as we kind of continue to navigate this and continue to hope for an opportunity to return to play.”
Some players have expressed concerns about staying in shape while self-quarantining and starting immediately with the playoffs if the NHL cannot finish the regular season.
“There’s going to be an adequate training camp with an ability to get back up to speed,” Daly said. “In terms of the first meaningful game, I’m not in a position to say what that’s going to look like, but we certainly understand the sentiment and the concerns about kind of jumping right back in.”
The NHL announced Wednesday the postponements of the 2020 NHL Scouting Combine, scheduled for June 1-6 in Buffalo; the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Awards, scheduled for June 18 in Las Vegas; and the 2020 NHL Draft, scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal.
NHL Central Scouting director Dan Marr is sending a memo to teams covering policies and protocols for draft prospects. Teams will be permitted to conduct interviews and psychological tests, but remotely at this point.
“I don’t think we can probably replicate a combine at this point in time,” Daly said. “I think Central Scouting’s going to do what they can to supplement and enhance the database and the information that clubs have with respect to draft prospects between now and whenever we have a draft.”
The Deputy Commissioner said the NHL cannot make decisions on the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery or order until it knows if and how the season will resume. As for the draft, the preference is to stage a typical draft, but options include holding a streamlined event or conducting it electronically.
The Montreal Canadiens will host a draft at Bell Centre at some point, the Deputy Commissioner said.
“It’s an unfortunate circumstance, obviously, but they’ve been fantastic partners in terms of making the decisions we needed to make on the timeline that we felt like we needed to make them,” Daly said.
The NHL has not made a definitive decision not to stage an awards show, but the calendar is crowded.
“You have to prioritize what needs to get done with what can get done,” Daly said. “If we can pull off an awards show that’s worthy, we’d love to have one. Not understanding what the realities are yet and how big our window will be, I would say there are other things that are going to have to come before the awards show.”
If the rest of the regular season is canceled, will the NHL still hand out awards?
“I have not even begun to consider it at this point in time, so I can’t tell you one way or the other on that,” Daly said. “I’ll add that on the list of items that need to be decided.”