NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 13, 2020
What next for the NHL in the wake of pausing the season over coronavirus concerns? What could be the effect upon the playoff race and the off-season? Check out the latest in today’s morning coffee headlines.
SPORTSNET: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league had been closely monitoring what was going on regarding the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus before its decision to pause the schedule. He admitted the NBA having a player test positive and forcing the cancellation of a game left him no doubt this would be a game-changer.
Bettman said he’s hesitant to use the word “suspension”, remaining hopeful the season will resume at some point. He’s not sure how far it could push the schedule into the summer. The league is taking a day-to-day approach for now.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’ll depend upon how long before the spread of the virus is significantly slowed or contained. TSN’s Frank Seravalli cited an NHL governor telling colleague Darren Dreger the league is focused for now on returning to action within three weeks, but that will depend upon the players’ health, how many (if any) contracted the virus, and recommendations from the health community.
THE SCORE: The playoff picture, the ripple effect upon the off-season schedule, and the salary cap are the major storylines to monitor as the NHL pauses the remainder of the 2019-20 schedule over coronavirus concerns.
Depending on when the league returns to action, it could pick up its schedule where it left off, play an abbreviated number of games to begin the playoffs closer to the starting date, or cancel the rest of the regular season and opt for a wild-card play-in or beginning the postseason based on the standings at the time the regular season was paused.
It could also affect the dates when the league stages its annual prospect combine and draft in June. The annual July 1 start date for free agency could also change. Next season’s salary cap could remain closer to this season’s $81.5 million rather than reach the projected range of $84 million to $88 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I daresay the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery, slated for April 9, will move to a different date later in the spring.
NEW YORK POST: Teams are standing pat with no practices or meetings. That could change if they think they’ll start playing games again.
Most teams intend to deal with their ticket holders individually. Most could be willing to transfer those tickets to next season.
If the players are still paid during the hiatus, they could end up giving it all back via escrow to ensure the 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue with team owners. As for hourly workers at arenas, individual teams could examine some form of compensation.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Toronto Maple Leafs (via Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment) and Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley announced they’ll look after their arena staff during this period. I expect the other clubs either have a plan in place for their respective personnel or are working on one.
ESPN.COM: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said it’s a team-by-team thing for testing players for COVID-19. “Testing kits are controlled by local health, and each state is allocated different amounts based on population and experience. At this point, the need for testing is greater than the supply of tests. That will start to change as manufacturers are ramping up production.”
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: The San Jose Sharks announced a part-time employee at SAP Center in San Jose tested positive for the coronavirus. The individual is under self-quarantine and receiving care from medical personnel.
SPORTSNET: The International Ice Hockey Federation is considering cancelling the Men’s World Championships. The 16-team tournament is set to begin on May 8.
NBC SPORTS: The AHL, ECHL, and CHL are following the NHL’s lead and pausing their schedules.
THE SCORE: Despite the interruption in the schedule, New York Rangers winger Brendan Lemieux will have a hearing today for interfering Colorado Avalanche forward Joonas Donskoi during Wednesday night’s contest.
CALGARY SUN: Long-time Flames executive Ken King passed away at age 68. He was team president and chief executive officer for many years beginning in 2001, and until recently played a role in securing a deal for a new arena in downtown Calgary.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to King’s family, friends, and the Flames’ organization.