Gary Bettman explains why NHL rinks are best for centralized games

Crews clean as the ice is resurfaced at American Airlines Arena, home of the Dallas Stars. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

Commissioner Gary Bettman says the facilities in NHL arenas are too important for the league to resume play at other sites.

“We can’t play in a small college rink in the middle of a smaller community because if we’re going to be centralized, we need the back of the house that NHL arenas provide,” Bettman told Ron MacLean on In Conversation Wednesday. “Whether its multiple locker rooms, whether its the technology, the procedures, the boards and glass, the video replay, the broadcasting facilities. Those are the things that are in place in NHL arenas and that’s what we’re going to ultimately need if we’re going to come back in a centralized basis and play multiple games a day.”

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Tuesday that a plan to host NHL games in neutral sites like North Dakota or New Hampshire was off the table. Instead, Friedman reported, the league was considering hosting each of the four divisions in one NHL city to play out the remainder of the regular season.

Bettman emphasized that nothing has been decided yet, but said that while the games might see teams face their own division, the cities chosen won’t necessarily be based on divisional alignment. He added that whatever cities do host games, the buildings would need a practice facility and at least four NHL-calibre locker rooms so that up to three games a day could be played.

“This is just part of the modelling… we’re making sure we’re prepared for any eventuality,” Bettman said. “It’s not something that we can predict right at this moment.

“There’s a lot that would have to be done and frankly our buildings are the best equipped in North America to deal with what our needs may be, if we go this route.”

You can watch the entire interview below, where Bettman addressed the debate over when to hold the NHL Draft, how governments at all levels play a role in deciding when the league can return, and how the NHL is getting creative to engage with fans during the shutdown.

“Nothing is more important than everybody’s health and well-being and any decisions we’re making and anything we’re considering doing starts with health and well-being,” Bettman said. “In the final analysis, we are hopeful that, by doing the right things in the short term, we’ll be able to come back and hopefully complete this season on some basis that is fair and has integrity.”

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