Currently, most of the world is rightly focused on ways to limit the continued spread of the coronavirus and keep people alive and healthy so they can resume their normal lives sooner rather than later.
For this to happen, events have been cancelled left and right to discourage people from gathering in large numbers and promote social distancing. Our new reality was reaffirmed on Sunday when the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommended no large gatherings to take place until at least mid-May.
This meant the sporting world was directly in the crosshairs and sports around the globe are effectively at a stand still for the foreseeable future, including the NHL who pressed pause on the 2019-20 last Thursday, just hours after the NBA suspended all play.
While games are on hiatus, plans will still need to be discussed and put in place for what will happen when (or if) the season can be resumed down the road. On Tuesday, we received our first look at what a restarted NHL season might look like, courtesy of a rumored proposal by the players. As of right now, nothing is official this is simply and idea being tossed around among players.
If mid-May is the best case scenario for a return to action based on the CDC’s current guidelines, then the player’s proposal to resuming the 2019-20 season sits well past that target date. This gives some credence to the idea that any sporting events in North America resuming by mid/late-May is likely already out the window.
One feature the player’s did include in their proposal was concluding the remaining the regular season schedule, something seen by many as unnecessary and possibly already a forgone conclusion not to happen at this point.
From Pierre Lebrun at The Athletic:
One team executive I spoke with on Tuesday doesn’t like the idea of regular-season games. He says we’re almost already at the point, given the CDC’s recommendation of an eight-week social shutdown, where jumping right to the playoffs makes the most sense.
Especially, he says, because it makes very little sense for some non-playoff teams to come back after such a long layoff just so they can play a handful of games.
Many NHL media member who have discussed how the season could resume have made it a point to say that play will likely begin with the Stanley Cup playoffs and teams seeded by percentage of points earned through the games they have played.
Should this plan be ever be officially presented to the league and adopted, it means we will get a conclusion to the season and the Stanley Cup awarded, something the NHL clearly wants to do and understandably so. Holding the playoffs also helps save some revenue that potentially could have been lost if the season were cancelled with no further games from this point forward.
Other than just the hockey aspect of this proposed plan is the impact it will have on the 2020-21 season beginning as early as November.
Frank Seravalli of TSN discussed this here:
Then a two-month sprint for Lord Stanley would begin in August, with the Stanley Cup awarded by the end of September.
A three- to four-week transition period would follow in October with the draft, free agency and training camps.
Then the full 2020-21 regular season – a condensed, 82-game schedule – would commence in November with the Stanley Cup awarded again in late June, 2021.
What we learned today about this plan was just the basics and there will need to be many details ironed out between the players and the NHL if it is ever to go into place. Although this is may be just the bare bones of a more complex plan, the idea does cover a lot of the bases for which the NHL is looking for is play is to resume.
But the players’ plan seems to check a lot of boxes.
1) This plan allows players and teams time to properly prepare, taking stress off athletes who feel the pull to continue to train at a time that it is not safe to congregate at the rink. It also allows for a defined “off-season” which would be March through June.
2) Waiting would minimize the possibility of the NHL returning in fits and starts – for instance, if the NHL attempted to return in May or June and then a player or team staff member tested positive for COVID-19 during that process.
3) A July return would allow the NHL to properly market hockey’s return and maximize revenue to be recouped, since hockey could likely then be played in full arenas. NHL players aren’t keen on the idea of being awarded the Stanley Cup in an empty rink. But this would also give players and teams two runs at Lord Stanley inside 10 months.
4) Perhaps most significantly, this schedule would seem to preserve the integrity of the Stanley Cup. That is what NHL commissioner Gary Bettman mentioned in an interview on TSN 1050 Radio on Monday.
All in all, it’s nice to see some sort of road map for how the NHL may progress should they have an opportunity to resume with the 2019-20 season. Awarding the Stanley Cup, and doing so with integrity, is a major goal for Gary Bettman and the NHL and for good reason.
It’s hard to say if this is the perfect plan, but for now, it’s at least something to work off. There are plenty of details to work out, but there is plenty of time to do that between now and when hockey starts up again. It also shows the players and the league are committed to working on a solution together that benefits both parties.
Winning a Stanley Cup, or even having the chance to, is not something that comes around every year for all teams. We are admittedly a bit spoiled here in Pittsburgh, but for some teams, this may be their best shot. It would surely sting a little bit to see an empty space on the Stanley Cup rather than a list of names celebrating those who climbed the mountain.