Islanders captain Anders Lee said he is confident the NHL will have a 2020-21 season, despite the doubts that might exist regarding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic's effect on the league’s finances.
Speaking on an Islanders postseason media call on Monday, Lee was asked if he had concerns about the league being able to play in 2020-21.
"I don’t have that level of concern,’’ he said. "There’s so much speculation going on, it’s tough to even talk on it, really, and not just in our return to play. It’s not something I can really get into. We’re just getting ready and looking forward to starting up when we do.’’
Lee was responding to a question regarding comments that Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley made on a radio station last week, in which he said a Feb. 1 start date, and a shortened season of between 48 and 56 games was more realistic than commissioner Gary Bettman’s goal of playing a full, 82-game season, beginning Jan. 1.
Lee, who is the Islanders’ representative to the NHL Players Association, was part of the group of players who worked with the league to help construct its return-to-play protocol coming out of the four-month coronavirus pause that started in March. He said he has not been involved in the group that is trying to figure out how and when to start the next season.
"I’ll be involved, but right now, my focus is kind of on getting back, and ready for next season,’’ he said. "I’ll help when needed . . . But the latest, really, is that same goal that Gary talked about. Both the PA and NHL are working towards a January 1 goal.’’
As far as NHL free agency and the offseason activity in the league right now, Lee said he was sad to see the Islanders trade defenseman Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche.
"Any time you see one of your friends and teammates traded, it sucks,’’ Lee said. "It’s not fun. It’s part of our business, that side of it. Devon is a great guy and a great player, and you wish him nothing but the best in Colorado.
"It’s going to be a bummer not having him in the room next year, but we know how great of a player and person he is, so he’s going to be great out west.’’
Reflecting on the Islanders’ playoff run that got them to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1993, Lee said 2019-20 was "a season you’re never going to really forget.’’
"From taking 10 months to complete and all the things that everyone went through, from the shutdown, and where we were as a team before that, and then I think how we came out of it and the run that we went on,’’ he said. "I think there’s always going to be that sting of not completing what we set out to do, but I look back on it now, a month out, [it was] still pretty special. We learned a lot. We did a lot.’’
Lee called it "a bummer’’ that the Islanders were not able to play in front of their home fans at the Coliseum after the league restarted in August, and he touched on the new UBS Arena, saying it is "incredible’’ how fast the building is going up. Until the new arena is ready, he said, he wants to "enjoy the heck out of the Coliseum, [and] try to give it another phenomenal ride and see where it goes.’’
$100G donation for virtual learning. The Islanders on Monday donated $100,000 to the Elmont School District to help provide secure and reliable internet service for virtual learning in the elementary and high schools in the district.