NHL and NHLPA looking into neutral locations to complete 2019-20 season

It’s difficult to imagine anybody showing up to a jam-packed stadium to watch a hockey game any time soon. But the NHL is still looking for solutions on how to get the 2019-20 season completed.

According to Elliotte Friedman, the NHL and the Players’ Association are discussing scenarios in which the remainder of the 2019-20 schedule and playoffs can be played in neutral locations. One name being thrown out there is the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota, home of the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks.

The Ralph Engelstad Arena, which housed the 2005 World Juniors, is regarded as the best non-NHL stadium out there. Many even suggest it’s a superior facility to a handful of rinks operating in the league right now. I guess it’s known as the “Taj Mahal of Hockey” for a reason.

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There are obviously plenty of logistical issues that would make this difficult to execute, such as getting everybody on airplanes to North Dakota and finding places for them to stay, but, given how far we seem from giving the green light to mass gatherings in North America, closed-door games at neutral locations are probably the most feasible way to get this season completed.

Elsewhere, the Premier League reportedly has a tentative deal for football matches to return to June behind closed doors as the United Kingdom is expecting to see its COVID-19 peak in the next couple of weeks. The logic here is that beyond fulfilling major broadcasting contracts, the spectacle of sport is viewed as a way to help calm the public during a difficult time. Just as it did during World War II and after 9/11, sport could play a restorative role for citizens.

The huge broadcasting contracts and other financial concerns have increased the pressure on clubs to complete the season, but one considerable advantage to the idea is that it would be a “TV mega-event”. The Independent has been told that plans have been drawn up to televise all remaining 92 matches, with a handful on every day over the summer months.

It is this aspect that has drawn increased government backing, too, as they like the idea of the population engrossed in the national sport, especially in the event that lockdown measures are tightened or extended. – The Independent, United Kingdom

Of course, the key differences between the COVID-19 pandemic and other circumstances such as 9/11 is the colossal challenge of keeping everybody involved virus-free and the ethical dilemma of diverting resources during a pandemic. Health and safety is the top priority here so the league shouldn’t be rushing into any kind of decision, but it’s positive to see them being creative and flexible in coming up with possible scenarios.