Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly is hopeful that the NHL can fit in the end of the 2019-20 regular season and playoffs during a “bigger window” this summer and play a full schedule in the 2020-21 season.
“I will say that it remains our hope, if not our goal, to be playing hockey sooner than then,” Daly said Friday, as reported by NHL.com’s Nicholas Cotsonika. “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.”
The NHL season was postponed on March 12 due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. While no timeline for a return has been announced, the NHL has so far not ruled out finishing the regular season and putting on a full Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“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,” Daly said.
The Deputy Commissioner also re-assured players who are concerned about staying in shape during this period of self-isolation that a transition plan will be in place to help teams get back to in-season form before potential playoffs.
“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.”
On Wednesday, the NHL announced that the NHL Scouting Combine, the NHL Awards and the NHL Draft have been postponed. Daly said the fate of the NHL Draft Lottery or order cannot be decided until the NHL knows if and how the season continues.
As for the NHL Draft, the NHL would prefer to host a typical draft but other options are being considered, including holding a streamlined event or staging it electronically.
However, the Deputy Commissioner said that the Montreal Canadiens will host a draft at the Bell Centre at some point.
“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.
Three NHL players have tested positive for COVID-19: two from the Ottawa Senators and one player from the Colorado Avalanche, who has since recovered.
Other players have tested negative, Daly said, and some have test results pending. Daly declined to provide 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.”