Gary Bettman said the NHL is not looking to take the easy way out by canceling the rest of the season.
The NHL commissioner, participating in a virtual town hall hosted by the San Jose Sharks, repeated his belief that the league will be able to complete its 2019-20 season in some form. Play was halted on March 12 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I believe that if the right time comes, and the right circumstances . . . we’ll get this season done,” Bettman said on Tuesday, per The Mercury News. “I don’t want to sound Pollyanna, but canceling is too easy a solution.
“States are reopening, cities are reopening,” Bettman added. “And if we do the right things, I think we’ll be able to finish the season.”
The NHL, which still has a self-quarantine recommendation in place for its players and personnel, hopes to be able to reopen its teams’ facilities for small-group practices by the end of the month.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Wednesday that he will lift restrictions in his state so teams can train and play in empty buildings.
“What I would tell commissioners of leagues is, if you have a team in an area where they just won’t let them operate, we’ll find a place for you here,” DeSantis said.
A source told Newsday on Saturday that the NHL had narrowed its options for the potential resumption of play to two models. The first includes 24 teams, with the top teams battling for playoff seeding and the bottom teams battling for a playoff spot. The second includes 16 teams going straight to the postseason.
“We would like to bring a conclusion to this season,” Bettman said. “If we have to do it over the summer on some modified basis, then we’ll do it on that basis.”
Several players have publicly pushed back against potentially being sequestered away from their families for a long stretch if the NHL places groups of teams in hub cities.
Islanders captain Anders Lee said he understands that reluctance. His wife, Grace, gave birth to the couple’s first child, Ruby, on March 2.
“Yeah, absolutely I can,” Lee told Newsday on Tuesday. “I think anyone can. You have to roll with the punches and figure it out the best you can for your family and yourself. A lot of these things coming out are ideas and we’re all trying to figure out what the next and the best step is.”