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The NHL’s pause will go for at least another 60 days

We’ve still got a long road ahead of us.

The National Hockey League and the Players’ Association told players on Monday that they can head home, as they had been in self-isolation in their team cities. Players are allowed to return home, even outside of North America, but they must self-isolate through March 27.

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This comes on the heels of the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation Sunday that no gatherings of 50 people or more take place for the next 60 days. The goal for the league is to resume play at the end of that 60-day recommendation period. That means the earliest we would see the league return to action would be the middle of May.

At this stage, even a mid-May projection for the league’s return seems optimistic. Canada and the United States are reportedly a couple of weeks behind where Italy is currently at, meaning there’s still a lot of room for the virus to multiply in North America. I’m not going to pretend to be any kind of expert here, but given how things have looked un Europe, it’s hard to imagine things getting back to normal in the next few weeks.

This is the first time the NHL has put any kind of timeline on resuming play since they officially announced the pause last week. Adam Silver, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, suggested the league’s pause would last at least one month.

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“The pause will be until it’s appropriate and prudent and safe to start back up,” Bettman said last week. “Nobody knows how long the hiatus may be. Nobody, even the medical community, can predict it with certainty. And what we’re doing is, we’re modelling every conceivable alternative so that when it’s appropriate to go back to work, we will know what our options and our alternatives are.”

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This is obviously an incredibly complicated situation. All the league can do is be flexible at this point as nobody can predict what the world is going to look like next week, let alone next month. The league has already requested that each team look into their stadium availabilities into the end of July in order to maximize a possible window in which a Stanley Cup playoff can be played.

Only twice has the Stanley Cup not been awarded. There was the 2005 lockout and the 1919 Spanish Influenza. Let’s hope they can find a way to make it work this summer.