NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the league is looking at roughly “eight or nine” hubs that could accommodate “a dozen or so teams in one location” in its efforts to resume the 2019-20 NHL season, according to Nicholas Cotsonika of NHL.com.
Bettman made the comments during a digital keynote interview with Leaders Week, a sports business conference, on Monday.
“I don’t think anybody has a fixed timetable, particularly in North America right now,” Bettman said, per Cotsonika.
“We have been working very hard since we took the pause on March 12 to make sure that whatever the timing is, whatever the sequencing is, whatever physical ability we have in terms of locations to play, that we’re in a position to execute any or all of those options. There is still a great deal of uncertainty.”
Bettman said the NHL would need to resolve border and quarantine issues in order to unpause the 2019-20 campaign. Seventeen per cent of players are currently outside of North America, while the rest are situated across the continent.
A plan involving hubs would likely necessitate facilities that could accommodate multiple games per day without fans. NHL arenas are best equipped for this undertaking with features such as multiple locker rooms that could be cleaned as teams are shuffled through.
The hubs would also need enough hotels to house teams and COVID-19 testing capacity to evaluate personnel without taking away from the local medical community.
“I am told that there can be enough capacity, and certainly over the next couple of months, there will be more capacity,” said Bettman, according to Cotsonika.
“But that is a fundamental question, and we certainly can’t be jumping the line in front of medical needs.”
Earlier Monday, Sportsnet reported that the league would prefer four hubs to host a season resumption, with six teams in each destination. However, the possibility of moving ahead with only two hubs is also on the table if Canada cannot be included.
The appeal of a city north of the border is due to the potential for lower costs to host games because of a weaker dollar as well as a desire to involve Canada in the conclusion of a season.