While no NHL player has tested positive for COVID-19, commissioner Gary Bettman was not willing to take a chance, leading to the league’s decision to pause the 2019-20 season.
Bettman said he came to decision Wednesday night after the NBA announced that a player tested positive, but wanted to talk with the NHL Board of Governors before making a formal announcement, which came Thursday afternoon.
“The last couple of weeks, we, like everybody else, have been monitoring what’s been going on, and we went from dealing with things on a day-to-day basis to an hour-by-hour basis, and then it was in minutes,” Bettman told CNBC. “And we were constantly evolving our strategy as to how we were going to have our teams playing or not playing, or under what circumstances.
“But last night, when the NBA had a positive test and they had to cancel a game at that moment, it was clear to me. And through all of our calculus, we knew that once a player tested positive, it would be a game-changer.
“I decided it was time to get ahead of it and not wait for one of our players to get tested, because in all likelihood, at some point in time, we weren’t going to get through the rest of the season without a player testing positive.”
Bettman added that he is not sure how far into the summer the NHL could push the schedule as the league is taking a day-to-day approach with the development of the coronavirus.
He also wanted to make it clear that the season is on “pause” because it is his hope that things can go back to normal when it’s safe to do so.
“I’m a little hesitant to use the word suspension, because our hope and our expectation is, when things get back to normal and it’s safe and it’s prudent, that we can go back and resume the season and ultimately have the Stanley Cup awarded,” he said.
“… My hope is that at some point we’ll get back to some normalcy, and that’s not just my hope for the NHL, and it’s not just my hope for all sports, it’s my hope for everything that’s going on.”