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NHLPA’s Donald Fehr on neutral site games: “we haven’t had those discussions yet”

As we’ve heard many times over the past month since play was suspended, the NHL and its players are looking for solutions for how the league can safely resume play without having to forgo awarding the Stanley Cup for the 2019-20 season. On Saturday, NHLPA Executive Director, Donald Fehr, spoke to ESPN about whether or not that’s possible, including the possibility of neutral site locations being used to finish up the schedule.

As the NHL and NHLPA search to find a suitable option to finish up their season amid the Coronavirus pandemic, one of the options we’ve heard plenty about over the past few weeks is the idea of holding games in neutral sites as a means of containing the spread of the virus. But, according to Fehr’s comments in the article on ESPN, those discussions haven’t gotten very far along:

“Other than the general understanding that they’re looking at all possibilities, which includes neutral sites — neutral being defined as a place that isn’t a home base for an NHL team — we haven’t had those discussions yet.”

While it’s been widely reported that sites like North Dakota’s Ralph Engelstad Arena have been explored as possible options, Fehr explained that finding a spot to play is only the first of many hurdles that will need to be cleared.

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“You’re going to want to know what the CDC says, without any question at all. But in addition to that, as we all know, the state governors and the provincial prime ministers have the basic responsibilities over their own jurisdictions, so you’re going to have to work with them too. Obviously, it would seem to me that the governors or the prime ministers of any such locations, for them to be interested, would have first and foremost in their mind the health and safety of their own residents.”

Depending on how the remainder of the schedule would theoretically play out, the NHL and NHLPA would have to find a way to house nearly 600 players safely while also taking into account the safety of the residents of whichever location would be willing to accommodate. Not only that, it’s not like all of these players come from the same place so there’s also the angle of how all of these guys would be able to come back from wherever they’re staying right now. I mean, it’s not exactly like international travel is all that easy right now.

Even so, we’ve heard many times how the NHL wants to find a way to resume play and that means they’re going to keep working on getting it done regardless of how unlikely it may seem right now. Just last week, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly reiterated the league’s wishes to get going again and find a way to finish up the year.

“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.”

With the amount of money on the line for both the owners and players, I’d assume they’re going to keep searching for viable options even if the window to get something done is shrinking by the day. Wherever the NHL decides to resume play — if that’s even possible at all — they’re going to need a lot of help from a lot of different people while also ensuring a way to prevent this problem from getting worse. That’s a tall order, my friends. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how things go.