Canadiens’ Brendan Gallagher says NHLPA has yet to discuss July return

Brendan-Gallagher-Montreal-Canadiens

Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

MONTREAL — If Brendan Gallagher had his way, his Montreal Canadiens would have a chance to compete for the 2020 Stanley Cup, even if it means doing it over the summer months.

But barring some extended playoff formats that have been batted around by NHL executives — and also by select groups of player — the Edmonton native would prefer to begin preparations for the 2020-21 season.

One way or the other, Gallagher feels it’s premature to start talking about the NHL’s pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic being lifted for a resumption of play come July.

“This is something that, for this stuff to happen, any hockey being played after July 1, I believe, has to be approved by the players’ association. And this, I guess, rumour that was put out there — it has nothing to do with us,” Gallagher said on a 35-minute conference call with Canadiens reporters on Thursday. “This is the scenario that — I’m assuming it came from the owners and it’s something they would prefer. Our side hasn’t really talked about it, so there’s really no substance to that at the moment.”

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When the season came to a screeching halt, the Canadiens were well on the outside of the playoff picture — 10 points back of the second wild-card position in the Eastern Conference and with just 11 games remaining on their schedule.

Gallagher made no bones about the fact that he and his teammates would rather focus on next season if no scenario that allows them to play themselves into the 2020 playoffs is realized.

“For us right now, it always comes back to the same thing — it’s about winning and if it’s going to interfere with our ability to prepare for next year where we have a chance, I’d rather continue my training and continue to do all that,” he said. “If it’s a situation where maybe you see these scenarios where you have a chance to play and they expand the playoff bracket, obviously you’re going to be all for it.”

“We have a pretty good understanding and a pretty good idea of what’s going to be best for us,” Gallagher added. “There’s really no split there, I think our team is pretty much on the same page.”

Both he and Canadiens associate captain Paul Byron have been participating in NHLPA conference calls over the weeks since the league paused its season. He said it’s been a main objective to keep all players informed and not allow rumours to proliferate.

“I think the biggest thing for us is you’re trying to avoid all these — especially for us, we have 700-plus players we have to worry about — we’re trying to avoid all the unnecessary leaks and proposals that come out there, because it just causes confusion and kind of diverts away from what you need to do,” Gallagher said. “With everything we’ve been able to do, we’ve kind of been able to keep it within us. And we’ve had a ton of conversations, a ton of votes, and we’ve made decisions as this thing’s gone on. But there’s been leaked proposals all over the place, but those are things that… There’s obviously ideas that have been talked about, but a lot of them don’t come with a lot of substance at the moment because there’s just so much that has to be talked about and dealt with at the moment.”

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When asked if he was optimistic a Cup would be awarded this summer, Gallagher said he was.

But he also cautioned that a lot of things need to fall in place before that’s guaranteed.

“I mean, I obviously can’t say for sure,” Gallagher said. “I think a lot depends on the medical professionals and the city’s mayors and governors that are going to allow these things to happen. But, to me, it just really feels like (NHL commissioner) Gary Bettman’s going to do whatever he can to have hockey.

“He’s going to have to meet a lot of our needs as players and what we’re going to obviously want back. But, if I had to guess, I think there will be some form of Stanley Cup Playoffs. I don’t know how it’s going to be or where it’s going to happen. I think they’re probably going to have to get creative with the format at this point. But if I had to guess, anyway, I’d say I think at some point the Stanley Cup will get awarded. But that’s just a guess, it’s not coming from any mindful conversations. I think it’s all 50-50 at this point.”

In an interview with Ron MacLean on Sportsnet’s ‘In Conversation’ Wednesday, Bettman was adamant that hockey won’t resume until it is deemed safe by the various authorities.

“Listen, the decision ultimately will be made by medical people and people who run governments at all different levels,” Bettman said. “So we’re not going to try and do anything that flies in the face of what we’re being told is appropriate.”

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