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Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Bettman: Completing the regular season “may not be possible”

NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, appeared on Lunch Talk Live with Mike Tirico this afternoon to talk about the future of the 2019-20 season and what the league is doing in the hopes of resuming play.

On March 12th, the NHL was forced to pause the 2019-20 regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and ordered its players to quarantine themselves in their homes until at least April 15th as means of potentially restarting play. Can you believe it hasn’t even been a month yet? In the interview, Bettman admitted that while the NHL is hopeful that they will be able to finish off what they started, he also acknowledged that finishing up the regular season may not be in the cards.

“The best thing, and the easiest thing, would be if at some point we could complete the regular season and then go into the playoffs as we normally do. We understand that that may not be possible and that’s why we’re considering every conceivable alternative to deal with whatever the eventuality is. Again, it doesn’t even pay to speculate because nobody in any of the sports knows enough now to make those profound decisions.”

With the news changing as quickly as it has and will, sometimes even on an hourly basis, it’s practically impossible for anyone to plan what their lives are going to look like a few days from now, let alone trying to figure out if we’ll be able to watch sports months in the future. For the National Hockey League, they’re still trying to determine a way that they’d be able to safely resume play, but even Bettman had to admit that coming up with a plan is a guessing game at best.

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“From an NHL standpoint, we’re viewing all of our options. We want to be ready to go as soon as we get a green light — and the green light may not be crystal clear because there may still be some places in the [USA and Canada] where we can’t play and other places where you can. We’re looking at all options. Nothing’s been ruled in, nothing’s been ruled out. And it’s largely going to be determined what we do by how much time there is, because we have next season to focus on as well and the health of the countries.”

It goes without saying that finding a solution to this problem would be a logistical nightmare, and that doesn’t even touch on the fact that the league would have to find a way to determine some kind of cutoff line for the playoffs if the regular season isn’t able to end with a full 82 games.

“Our clubs, if nothing, are extraordinarily competitive, and whatever we do has to be fair, which is why there’s been some public speculation in the media about neutral site games in remote parts of the country.”

As a hockey fan, I’ll be very interested to see how the league chooses who makes the playoffs provided that they’re able to even happen at all, and Bettman also acknowledged that there are other questions that would need answers as a result.

“We had seven teams on the bubble and they all think they would have had a chance. We also have to deal with the lottery and order of selection in the draft.”

As we continue to read the news about the effects of Coronavirus and move forward through this work stoppage, it feels less and less likely with each passing day that the NHL will be back any time soon, and listening to Gary Bettman talk about what they’re working on didn’t really squash those fears. Even if they are miraculously able to resume play, with so many variables in the mix as to when or where that would have, it seems impossible to come up with a solution that would please everybody. Not only would all 31 teams have to compromise on a blueprint for how they could make this work, but they would obviously need the Coronavirus to be under control for any idea they do come up with to have a snowball’s chance in hell of leaving the start line. Right now, the prognosis seems grim.

“Hopefully, we’ll all know more by the end of April.”

End of April? That’s like a decade from now. At least, that’s how it feels anyway.

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WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW