The National Hockey League says it would be willing to play games without fans at neutral site locations if that’s what it takes to finish the 2019-20 NHL season.
The league, as we all know, put a pause on the season on March 12 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has taken the world by storm.
The NHL’s Bill Daly, meanwhile, says the neutral site games are not “our preferred result or outcome.”
“I’d say it’s one possibility, for sure, and it’s something that has been considered and something that has been discussed. Our goal is to be as prepared as we possibly can be for any eventuality and to be able to react to the situation on very little notice to kind of set a course, but at this point, it continues to be premature to set that course.” – Daly
Right now, Daly said in 25 of the league’s 31 markets, team facilities would not be able to open due to local directives — something that is hindering the league’s ability to move forward with any solidified plans. Daly added the league is taking cues from government and health officials when it comes to the safety of everyone in the league.
“In a large respect, they’re in control of the timetable. We’re not getting back on May 1, right? We’re not playing games on May 1. We’re probably not in a position even to open our facilities by May 1, although we’ll see.” – Daly
The league has gone forth and asked teams for arena availability through August as they continue to evaluate their options when it comes to finishing the regular season, and hopefully awarding a Stanley Cup championship before the end of summer.
Daly, meanwhile, has reiterated the league’s desire to finish the 2019-20 season.
“I can say that we’ve been consistent and remain of the view that we want to play if we can. We want to conclude the ’19-20 season if we can. I think the players strongly are aligned in that view, which is a positive. I haven’t got a sense from anybody in any of my interactions with the Players’ Association that any player wants to pull the plug on the season, unless and until the health authorities tell us we have to pull the plug on the season. That continues to be our sole objective.” – Daly
In my eyes, the league is absolutely doing the right thing here in terms of examining their options. When it comes to getting things fired back up it’s going to be a process I see taking longer than many hope. We have to remember that there are currently players all around the world at their respective homes and case numbers, I would imagine, will need to significantly drop for lots of travel to open back up and for players to return for games.
There have been propositions of neutral site games prior to the league’s statements today, and OilersNation’s Tyler Yaremchuk covered them here.
On Twitter: @zjlaing