Let’s preface this with the fact that, at this time, we’re all just guessing at return-to-play timelines — but the NHL and NHLPA are beginning to spitball scenarios as to where remaining 2019-20 regular-season/playoff games could be held.
One location that’s been mentioned: North Dakota.
Several sites would be necessary, but Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D., makes sense. Host of the 2005 World Junior Championships, the 2016 World Under-18s and the NCAA’s Fighting Hawks, it is an impressive facility that is definitely more suitable than many other available non-NHL options in the United States.
Obviously, nothing is imminent. Hotel availability in Grand Forks would be a challenge. We also don’t know about travel scenarios, necessary logistics, or if the state itself would be willing to host such an event. But the area makes sense because of the arena, the likelihood of games being played without fans and North Dakota’s relatively low population density (only Montana, Wyoming and Alaska have fewer people per square mile).
It is expected that the NHL and NHLPA will discuss other locales this week. It’s never wrong to explore your options, regardless of what eventually happens.
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix reported Friday that the NBA was considering putting all of its playoff games in Las Vegas. The Mirror reported Sunday there is a “tentative agreement” for the Premier League to return in June, with games played behind closed doors.
The league and players must agree on any return-to-play scenarios. The players are very concerned about the potential of 35 per cent escrow on future paycheques, and whether or not the NHL will consider allowing that to be paid over multiple years. (CBA discussions are believed to be taking place.)
Now, however, there is nothing but time to work on these issues.