NHL commissioner Gary Bettman joins Bret Baier on ‘Special Report.’
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National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman told “Special Report” Thursday that his league has crafted a “comprehensive plan” for players to resume personal training and gear up for a special 24-team tournament Stanley Cup playoff tournament that will be held in two “hub” cities to be determined.
“Everything we have been focused on starts with the health and well-being of our players, the other personnel, in the communities in which we play,” Bettman said. “We believe they will be playing over the summer and that we will be able to award a champion for the ’19-’20 season.”
“From a health standpoint obviously for the players we are worried about COVID-19,” Bettman added. “Testing will be an important part of what we are doing”.
The NHL suspended its season on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic, having played 1,082 of the scheduled 1,271 regular season games. On Tuesday, Bettman announced the league’s four-phase “Return to Play” plan. The league is expected to enter phase 2, in which players begin small group and voluntary training, early next month.
“We’ve got to get them [players] working out and in safe facilities,” the commissioner said. “To the extent that quarantining is required, we have to do that, and once everybody starts getting reassembled and starts to get back in shape, then we can move into a training camp phase.”
The “Return to Play” plan calls for formal traning camps to begin no earlier than the first half of July “after guidance from medical and civil authorities. At a future date, 12 teams from each conference will begin competing in round-robin and qualifying rounds. Each conference will play their playoff games in a city chosen from a shortlist of ten.
Baier noted the cities on the shortlist include Vancouver, Los Angeles, Edmonton, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Chicago, Dallas, and Columbus.
“When we bring the players into the hubs and they are playing games, they are going to be tested, if not every day, at least every other day,” said Bettman, who added that whether the league picks a Canadian city as a “hub” location depends on the restrictions imposed by the Ottawa government, incluing a two-week quarantine.
“They all have the infrastructure because, in playing tournament-style, we’ll [have] multiple games in a facility at a time, but we also want to try to create a bit of a bubble,” he said.
“Having multiple options helps us make the best possible decision in real time.”