There’s still a lot more questions than answers regarding when and if the NHL season could resume, and what that might look like if it does. As time ticks on, we still don’t have anything more than bits and pieces and ideas about getting started again.
Around here, that includes the expectation that, after weeks of talks between the Edmonton Oilers and the NHL about the possibility of hosting playoff games as the COVID-19 crisis continues, we could soon see something resembling an official proposal. Here and elsewhere, that’s something that would have to be signed off on by all levels of government.
What we do know after listening to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly address the issue Friday is that any restart, no matter what the format might be, depends on the ability to test players in any of the communities involved, be it Edmonton, Vancouver or elsewhere. Testing tops a list that includes having a first-rate rink, practice ice, hotel capacity – all of which Edmonton does — and the ability to secure access to all the above.
It helps that Edmonton qualifies as one of the hubs that could be used for games because the city has the facilities and we’ve stayed on top of flattening the COVID-19 curve, but any resumption of play starts with ensuring that everybody involved – players as well as team and league personnel – is safe.
WHAT HE SAID
“We’re going to need to have access to testing, and we’re going to make it a point that we’re not accessing testing, even in a private way, if testing availability is an issue in the community,” Daly told 630 CHED Friday. “We will not test asymptomatic players ahead of symptomatic people who are unable to get tested. It’s just something we will not do.”
Daly told TSN 1050 in Toronto: “There are a number of potential solutions that are (pitched) to us and to the other sports leagues and to other organizations every day, and I’d say it’s an important part of the process in terms of making sure you thoroughly vet that and understand the testing solution you’re embracing.
“Not every community probably will be in the place where they can allow for discretionary testing of players … another box on the checklist that you have to check is, is it supported by kind of the local health authorities? Is this something that the community welcomes and thinks would be a positive in recovering from what we’re going through now?
“We’re really just in the process of kind of vetting all those clubs, communities and all the venue issues that would be associated with that.” For context, the Daly interview is here.
GETTING IT DONE
While time is a factor in completing this season without creating an issue for next season, there’s clearly a willingness to try to get this done. The NHL and the NHLPA have formed a committee to explore possibilities. Of course, it goes without saying that fans in hockey hotbeds like Edmonton want to see it happen, even if it means watching the teams play in empty rinks.
The AHL cancelled its season today, meaning there won’t be a Calder up champion for the first time since 1937, but Daly and NHL boss Gary Bettman are obviously of the mind – at least as of today — there’s still time to salvage the season. The old axiom is “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” but the reality is it’ll take a lot more than that. We’d be playing now if that was the case.