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NHL considering possibility of playing at neutral sites, Gary Bettman says

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media prior to the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Enterprise Center on Jan. 24, 2020, in St Louis, Mo. Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday that his league “can’t rule out any conceivable alternative,’’ including the possibility of playing games at neutral sites, when it comes to resuming the season after the current pause.

Bettman halted NHL games on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking to Cooper on his afternoon show, he said he doesn’t know when the NHL can return to play, “but it’s something we’re monitoring on a daily basis.’’

Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, on a conference call with reporters Monday, said he doesn't see how the league can resume play this season.

“Honestly, I don’t see how the season is going to return,’’ Doughty said. “I would think the NHL or whoever would make the decision would have to make some kind of decision on that soon. And it seems like it’s going to be pretty tough to resume the season or playoffs.’’

On his show, Cooper asked about the recent conference call between the major sports  commissioners and President Donald Trump. Bettman said the president expressed his desire to get sports back because he believes sports is important as a means of bringing people together and helping society heal itself. However, Bettman said, “We all agreed that, until it’s the right time, there are other more pressing issues than when we come back. And again, everything starts with people’s health and well-being.’’

Cooper also asked Bettman about some of the scenarios that have been mentioned as a means of restarting sports, such as playing all Major League Baseball games in Arizona and the UFC’s idea of holding an event on a private island.

“The fact is, when you’re in the position that all of us are in, you have to be prepared to re-launch when the opportunity presents itself, which means . . . you can’t rule out any conceivable alternative,’’ Bettman said. “And [you have to] be prepared on every one, even if some of them ultimately turn out to not be realistic.’’

Last week, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the NHL indeed has considered playing neutral-site games, though the league would prefer not to do that.

“I’d say it’s one possibility for sure, and it’s something that has been considered and something that has been discussed,’’ Daly  said Friday. “It’s not our preferred result or outcome.’’

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