NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – March 17, 2020

by | Mar 17, 2020 | News, NHL | 32 comments

The NHL hopes to return to action by mid-May at the earliest, rumors of a 24-team postseason format and much more in today’s morning coffee headlines.

NHL.COM: The league yesterday allowed its players to return to their homes outside their NHL cities. They also indicated the players’ self-quarantine should continue through March 27. After that, and depending on world developments regarding the COVID-19 virus, consideration will be given to opening club facilities to small groups of players for voluntary training. The league also indicated its objective is to open training camps 45 days into the 60 days as recommended by the CDC directive.

THE DENVER POST: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said there is an “outside date” beyond which saving the 2019-20 season would be unfeasible. “We haven’t ruled anything in or anything out — other than it’s got to be the right thing in terms of the well-being of our players and our fans.”

Could there be a 24-team format for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs?

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears the league’s best-cast scenario is returning to action by May 15. However, Bettman’s comments suggest they’re prepared for the possibility of canceling the season.

SPORTSNET: The NHL also implemented a roster freeze effective at 5 pm ET yesterday.

SPORTING NEWS: The league is said to be considering a 24-team playoff format among its options.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That would mean clubs with slim playoff hopes, such as the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks, would qualify. I prefer a 20-team format involving clubs jockeying for wild-card berths at the time the schedule was paused. 

ARIZONA SPORTS: Coyotes defenseman Aaron Ness tested negative for COVID-19.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Glad to hear Ness is okay. As of this posting, no NHL players tested positive for the virus. Here’s hoping none of them get it. For that matter, here’s hoping all of you stay safe and healthy.

THE BOSTON GLOBE: Bruins captain Zdeno Chara sent a message for Bruins fans to “stay safe, disciplined and clean” during this troubling time.

WINNIPEG SUN: Jets captain Blake Wheeler urged fans to stay home and “limit your exposure to keep yourself and those in your community safe.”

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Jets fans might not soon forget the club’s seeming reluctance to compensate their part-time arena employees affected by the COVID-19 shutdown on major events.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt there will be a lingering backlash toward any club seen as foot-dragging when it comes to compensating its part-time arena staff. It will be largely forgotten whenever hockey returns, be it mid-May or in the fall if this season gets cancelled.

OTTAWA SUN: The Senators yesterday announced its part-time staff affected by the pause in the NHL schedule will receive compensation.

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH: The Blue Jackets also revealed it would aid its hourly game-day workers.

SPORTSNET: Montreal Canadiens players also intend to financially assist team and arena staff. The club announced Sunday it would “pay employees eligible for employee insurance the maximum amount allowed (approximately 40 percent) and employees ineligible for employee insurance 75 percent of the salary for the 12 home games remaining between the Canadiens and AHL’s Laval Rocket.” The players will help those employees make up the difference.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Teams that appeared slow to compensate employees, like the Senators, were publicly dragged on social media. Some, like the Jets, whose ownership publicly doubled down on its refusal to assist those workers before caving to public pressure, deserved the backlash. In other cases, however, the criticism was unwarranted. Some clubs took a little more time because they were exploring all options to determine the best one for everyone involved.

SPORTSNET: The AHL will maintain suspension of its season until May.

THE SCORE: Former NHL goaltender Jonas Hiller announced his retirement. He spent nine seasons with the Anaheim Ducks and Calgary Flames, totaling a record of 197 wins, 140 losses, and 37 overtime losses, with a 2.55 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. He spent the past four seasons in Switzerland.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Hiller in his retirement.


  1. Yeah, as per usual some were quick to dump on the usual targets for “foot-dragging” re support staff compensation. In the Senators’ case, their first game back home after a 5-game road-trip wasn’t to take place until tomorrow, March 18, against Edmonton.

    With everything up in the air, so to speak, re scheduling delays at the outset of the suspension, what was the rush to announce compensation? Some chose to announce early and when that happened, any that didn’t follow suit immediately were branded. Typical knee-jerk reactions by know-it-alls that shouldn’t come as any great surprise.

    As for the ongoing situation, we’ll know that the excrement has really hit the proverbial fan when all-news outlets like those run in Canada by CTV and CBC, and CNN in the U.S., stop pausing for commercial breaks.

    • George, do you think people who work for these teams and waiting for days after other teams announced they would pay their staff would think it doesn’t matter that they waited? My wife and I are still working and are stressed about whether we will have jobs, with 2 kids under 10 to take care of. I work for a non-profit which is always precarious and she works in advertising, you know those commercials that should be skipped? that would put a lot of people out of work as well from creative agencies to marketing departments to advertising media companies. Ottawa rightly or wrongly has a reputation for having an owner that seems to lack compassion and not want to spend, so maybe people working for the organizzation were legitimately concerned to not know if htey were gertting paid or not at a time when you need to stock up on supplies while you still had a chance.

      Not trying to start an argument but I don’t think it’s ok to say it’s fine to wait to announce it since they weren’t supposed to work until tomorrow anyway, they had days and days of not knowing if their next pay was coming or not, added anxiety that could have been allayed days ago.

      • I understand what you’re saying tb – and I agree – but what we DON’T know – and therefore can’t speculate on – is whether or not the organization assured their support staff that they would be paid once it was definite that the final five home games were likely not going to played. A week ago no one knew that one way or another.

        The first of the five wasn’t scheduled until tomorrow.

        So, let’s say they all get paid now for those 5 games and somehow, some way, the situation tapers off enough to let the schedule plays out in early April. Since that staff will already have been paid for the remaining 5 games on the basis of their being cancelled, and they obviously won’t be paid twice for the same games, they’d be working those games on their own time.

        By jumping on Melnyk’s tight-fisted way with money to assume he created angst among the staff is, in every respect, knee-jerk. If some among that staff come out later and say they were left dangling, THEN we can legitimately jump all over him. But I haven’t heard any such report yet. Have you?

      • There is life outside of hockey and a lot of people have been already affective by these decisions.

        Last night I had supper at East Side Mario’s and there was just me and one other table of two people and only one worker.

        As you know this is hitting everyone hard. People who live from pay check to pay check because they don’t have a choice are in for real hardship. EI is nice but doesn’t cover all your wages.

        I would like to see everyone who gets temporarily laid off be paid by their employers but the reality is that most can’t afford to do that and it’s a s****y time.

        When things start to get back to normal a lot of these employees won’t be returning immediately; folks will have bills to catch up on and won’t be able to support their local coffee shops, fast food place or restaurants, malls, gas and convenience and the list goes on.

        Unfortunately it will be awhile before a lot of people will crawl out of this pandemic.

      • George, don’t you think we would have heard if they HAD told staff they were being paid? Do you think the organization wouldn’t have made it public if that was the decision earlier? Why would they take a beating in the press if they were secretly assuring everyone they would be paid? Pretty basic PR decision to correct the story if that was the case, so I would be shocked if that was the case, especially something that could have been resolved by a 2 line press release. Also it’s pretty obvious that this is going to be a cost of doing business issue, any team that pays their staff for games missed will of course have to pay staff again if the games are later played, that’s just the reality of it. If the Ottawa organization was waiting because they weren’t sure the games would be palyed in a couple of weeks then they are pretty far behind teh rest of the world in understanding what is going on right now don’t you think?

      • Why would we have heard that they would pay the staff any more than we would have heard had they said nothing to the staff?

        Look, I’m NOT defending the twit I want to see removed as owner – but I have learned over many years never to jump to conclusions. A couple of years back there were many in these pages who wanted to draw and quarter Patrick Kane for the “brutal rape” of an “innocent girl” in Buffalo. Until it was revealed that the evidence was rife with doubt, at which point the whole thing just faded away.

        But that didn’t stop comments and opinions wanting to throw the book at both sides – when they didn’t know a damned thing for certain.


        But we can argue this one until the cows come home – until I see a definitive charge by someone that they were left dangling in uncertainty by the organization I will draw no conclusions.

      • Sure, what I’m saying is that if they were seeing all the negative press and didn’t have the sense to put out a statement that they were working on a policy at the very least then they are dumber than they get credit for. Organizations have to react to their bad press, it’s just a reality. Nobody is giving them a pass if they aren’t smart enough to even address it for days at a time. And it doesn’t take a genius to know that everyone is going to jump on stuff like this because everyone is worried for their own family, so it gets amplified.

      • “I understand what you’re saying tb – and I agree – but what we DON’T know – and therefore can’t speculate…”
        Perfect George. This is exactly what we do here, speculate and that’s ok.

      • George I agree that any team not ponying up should be treated equally but think it also may be a bit more amplified in Canada, and Ottawa has that reputation already, whether or not it’s a deserved reputation is beside the point since it is how they are viewed. Timmy’s got raked through it as well, though I didn’t ready anything negative about Popeye’s which has the same owner.

      • Ron Moore, speculating on who to trade and for who is fine … speculating on motives when we don’t know jack-s*&t is knee-jerk in the extreme.

  2. The delay and how or if the NHL completes the season could impact the conditional draft picks that were included in trades.

  3. They should stay with the 16 team play off format or they degrade the importance of the 68 games they played. Maybe 20 but 24 is an insult to the efforts of the teams that had some success.

    Maybe the NHL could substitute participants ribbons for the Stanley Cup. We wouldn’t want the games be reduced to winning and losing. Bettman could reduce the whole ball of wax to a kissing your sister tie.

    • I think you took that the wrong way dog. The expanded format isn’t about rewarding mediocrity… it’s about trying to recoup as much money lost as possible. It’s also about try to get more goodwill back from fans who lost out on so much hockey.

    • I’m not a public health expert, but from the information I have read the earliest this peaks is about 8 weeks. So middle of May.
      But that is simply the peak so it will still be significantly worse than it is today for weeks after the peak. How many weeks after the peak will the infection rate be at a level where they pack 18,000 people into an arena?
      The strategy in NA is to “flatten the curve” by isolation and social distancing. Flattening hopefully prevents an overwhelming of the healthcare systems so fewer people die because they can’t get access to care and respirators. What it also does is extend the time we have to continue to take these precautions.
      The whole point of my story is that if I had to bet $100 today, I would put it on the season is cancelled.

      • I agree Ray. One signal to that effect was the NHL telling players they could “go home” yesterday. I presume that means Europeans of the various nationalities as well – assuming they can find flights AND the home countries let them in.

        I can also see a major delay to the start of next season from both a disease AND an economics aspect. This is all going to get worse, I’m afraid.

  4. I will never understand this ideology of the “rich man needs to pay”

    Owners are losing money too. Why the hell is it just assumed they need to be bailing everyone out? Because they have money?
    Beyond ridiculous! Where is this mentality when a business is bleeding? When business owners put everything (including personal assets ) on the line and are hemorrhaging money…. is the same hourly employee taking the hit out of their pocket too? Are they showing up for weeks or months free of charge?

    Nah…. that would not be one sided and selfish enough.

    God forbid anyone make their own way in the world these days.

    Like my great granny used to say… “nobody owes you s—t, go earn your way”!!!!

    • There are a lot of families that are grateful that the owners don’t take advice from your great granny.

      • But I bet a bunch of owners wish the average employee did.

      • Boo hoo.

    • and when the auto industry died and the banks started dying the bailout money didn’t go toaf the employees, went to the companies to keep the employees working. Why should the corporations run to the government for bailout money but employees are not supposed to expect to be paid? Your rationale will do nothing except make the recovery longer and more painful, and it’s a vicious cycle where companies lay people off, people stop spending money, companies lay people off, etc. etc. Your great-granny may have seen something like this in the 1930’s

      It’s fine to have that mindset of people should take care of themselves, when the economy completely dies how does that work? Billioniaires that own these teams are protected and hourly staff don’t eat? Where are they going to get these jobs to support themselves over the next several months? I live on Yonge street in Toronto and everything is dead, don’t think those places are hiring.? nobody wants to help anyone until they lose their own job or their investments are worthless, then they expect help. These attitudes around profits first and companies and their owners don’t have a social responsibility is fairly new, historically that isn’t how business worked.

      • Apples to battleships here…,

        The nhl, nba, etc haven’t been a part of any type of bailout by the government. And I doubt they will… or will be specifically. The auto bailout helped keep these businesses up and running and people employed…. that’s how that worked out!!!!! It wasn’t like the auto industry went to the nearest club and made it rain with that free money!

        Owners that help or want to help…. that is truly a great thing.

        The fact that people expect that is beyond ridiculous! As I state above, when a company bleeds cash…. are employees expected to work for free or go into their saving to help save a business?

        No… they’re not. If a business owner loses Everything, personal and or business assets because of a failed business…. do employees take that hit? No…. they move on to the next company.

        It’s a 2 way street. You’re owed NOTHING other than a check you EARN from the company that employs you. Nothing! You provide a service, they provide your pay. Even!

        Don’t like your wage? Find a new career.

        This rich devil, anyone that makes six figures and above owes me crap is getting old. Everyone has their hand out to share the riches, but nobody wants the fallout from a failed business…. ridiculous!

        We should all learn from our grannies and grampies……
        a lot of them came here with nothing and didn’t expect the world to pay for their life choices and pay their way in life….

        Why bother these days? You can just sit on your ass , complain and start a gofundme?

        RIP work ethic, pride, etc….

      • Oh, is it easier these days? My dad got a job at the local steel company at 17 years old and stayed for 43 years, full-time, benefits and pension. I worked at that company, contract, no benefits, no pension. I have a good job now, defined contribution pension which is more than my wife gets. Back when it was harder were there families with a $70k household income and a starter home cost $600k? If you’re lucky enough to get permanent full-time, definitely without a defined benefit pension unless you work for the government? I hear all the time about how easy it is now, minimum of $40k/year to go to university and then contract work when you get out, lazy millennials. Condo prices in Toronto generally float around $850/sq. ft. in a decent neighbourhood, yet salaries aren’t significantly higher than they were 20 years ago, hard to see how that’s easier than it used to be. We bought our first place in 2006 and it’s quadrupled in value since then…think salaries have?
        And this isn’t what you’retalking about, these are obviously extenuating circumstances. If companies do what you think is appropriate and just stop paying people how quickly do you think the economy will recover at the end of the quarantine period? Will things just go back to normal or will people be scared to spend for an extended period of time? When people can’t afford their mortgage payments do the big companies just suck it up, like they did in 2008?

        I don’t begrudge business owners the money they make, that’s the system. But your view depends on there being a level playing ground, which there isn’t. They can hire at minimum wage, on contract, no regular schedule, no benefits, no pension and have no responsibility at all towards their employees and the community they operate in? What a strange way to look at things.

        Oh, even with my wife and my good jobs we both have to carry a cell at all times for emergencies, overtime work on evenings and weekends but with no pay as we are both salary, this is easier than the bad old days?

        Also obviously there is no legal requirement for these teams to pay this staff, but it’s a bad PR move not to. And when teams are asking for hundreds of millions in cash and tax breaks to build arenas but cry poor when they minumum wage staff are not getting paid at a time like this then those teams can’t expect public support when they want a new arena.

      • You guys both make valid points.
        Yes the deal is you bring value to a business they pay you. If you can earn more somewhere else, you are free to move. I don’t want to live in a place you can’t do that.
        But, since about 1980 the leverage of employee’s and the share employees get vs profit has gone down dramatically. Hence income inequality is at it’s highest since just before the great depression.
        Multiple reasons for this – Tax code. There is a reason the US Tax code is more than 10,000 pages. That is the payback for campaign contributions and funding super pacs and some of the “think tanks”.
        Trickle down economics doesn’t work, it doesn’t trickle down. But the stock market goes up. The evidence is clear on this.
        Not enforcing anti trust laws has caused bigger and fewer large employers. Less leverage for employees and new business start ups are way down. The lowest it has been in decades, so it hurts small business as well. Added bonus is you get less competitive over time because of reduced competition. Not great in a global economy. The auto industry? The employees took a pay cut too. All good, helped everybody but is happening now that profits are back to where they were?
        NA is a consumer driven economy, 80-85% of GDP. Putting more money in the majority of people’s pockets is actually good overall as it drives consumption and GDP growth.
        The highest US GDP growth also coincides with the max tax rate being above 70%. 1950’s and 60’s. Also balances the budget and reduces government debt. Infrastructure anyone?
        Sports teams hold cities, states and provinces hostage whenever they want a new arena by threatening to move if the taxpayer doesn’t help fund it. Perhaps they can help out when their own staff needs it the most so it doesn’t fall back on the taxpayer.
        A free market economy is the best system the human race has ever had, but some of the rules have changed/shifted to benefit those with the greatest share of the wealth. That is simply a fact.
        IMO they need to shift back somewhat.
        I am older and just fine financially, but I worry about my kids and them having the same opportunities I had.

      • Tb,

        I agree on a lot of points with you. My wife and I both have good careers. Both average well over 60 hours a week, both salaried, neither one of us have pension plan etc. I literally haven’t had 2 consecutive days off since I rejoined the company I’m with about 6 years ago…. Honestly, I’m lucky to have one single day uninterrupted by work in some way shape or form…

        All that being said I don’t expect anything outside of my normal salary from my company…. which is a company that is very large, very profitable.

        I left my home at 17. Paid my own way for education, rent, food, car insurance etc. with zero outside help… worked full time through all that…never went home with my hand out, never received government assistance.

        I have 1 in college, another on his way. Luckily, my youngest should full ride out. But either way we planned for this…

        How is it these people can’t weather a full week of no pay?

        Because people expect to be able to raise a family of 4-5 on selling hot dogs at a stadium for someone else?

        Zero planning, zero patience gimme gimme gimme , I want I want I want. Can’t afford one kid… let’s have two… can’t afford two? Let’s have 4.

        Can’t feed the 4 kids, but can afford $1000 cell phones and $300 a month cell plans….but refuse to pay for health insurance……

        Sickening to see the 20 year old girl in front of me, 8 kids hanging on her, one in the belly texting away while sliding that ebt card for some healthy doritos and mt dew snacks for the kiddies!!!!

        Life is so unfair that some have planned better than others…. some don’t impulsively jump into life changing expensive decisions, and a constant flow of things they can’t afford… don’t need …..but want….

        Personal accountability would be a nice thing to see more of these days.

        It’s not the rich 6 figure devils fault people live week to week. And can’t plan past their impulsive unnecessary bs.

        It’s crazy how people think these days.

        Plan! And plan n beyond tomorrow!

      • NY, this is my point though. You worked your way through school at 17, the cost of school has increased dramatically over the past 20 years. I don’t think you were working full time and then paying $40k or more a year for school? Then getting out of school and working contract for $30k/year in a city like Toronto where if you are really lucky you may only pay $1500/mth for rent. Then when a once in a century disaster happens people tell you how easy it was for them to work their way up and why don’t you have money set aside for this?

        I’m really not trying to be a jerk but it is tough for more people now than it used to be. Telling people to figure it out isn’t useful when the jobs aren’t there at a salary that you can support yourself, let alone a family. Not sure why people making your argument always jump to the fictional 20 year old with 8 kids and a cell plan that costs more than anything I’ve ever seen. But let’s say that exists, the argument you are making is the 8 fictional kids may not have food but nobody should have to help them out because their mom made bad decisions? We obviously have a life view exactly 180 degrees from each other, good thing this is just a hockey site, not here to argue about this, I just think in an emergency like this a corporation has an obligation to it’s staff to not just leave them high and dry, and in the case of hockey teams fans that support the team and taxpayers that are on the hook for their arena and reno’s and stuff have a valid argument that teams should help those employees out.

      • None of that is fictional… well maybe it’s 4 kids, 3 kids or 5 kids and not 8…. but my point remains. And I don’t know where you get cell service… I pay around 250 a month for 4 lines through Verizon… how is 300 far fetched?

        Should those kids go hungry? Absolutely not, and obviously they don’t.
        However the system created around them has to stop. Being subsidized is a nice thing… it’s not supposed to be a way of life. It’s supposed to be temporary. Not generational.

        The government has created a monster. It has to stop.

        You’re on welfare / food stamps Medicaid etc? You don’t need a cell phone. Period! You don’t need cable tv, you don’t need flat screens, Netflix, iTunes, rental furniture, designer clothes / shoes, beats headphones , earbuds etc.

        You get food, a roof over your head, and basic necessities. Want more? Get a real job! Stop having kids!

        Have 2 kids when you apply for assistance? Guess what… we’ll pay for 2 kids … want to have a 3rd? You’re on your own! You knew you couldn’t afford 2… back to personal accountability!

        Tax returns….. gone! Why are you getting back 2-3xs what you paid in? Why do you get ANYTHING back at all when taxpayers are paying your way to begin with?

        And 20-30 years ago.. school was cheaper in comparison. So was income! I grew up and went through college in NY… you think Toronto’s expensive? Try NY / and westchester county. Today, and 30 years ago… You don’t think I didn’t struggle? Go hungry at times? Do without things I needed (want was a foreign concept most of that time) at times?

        Wrong…. I just made do with what I had to work with…

        It’s all relative. Then or now. The only thing that’s changed is the attitude and concept of earning what you have. Well and waiting for what you want ….


        Can’t afford 40k tuition?

        Loans… don’t want debt? Community college will have to work I guess.

        Takes me back to want vs need vs can afford.

      • So, not trying to argue but a few things I guess I wasn’t clear about. First I didn’t compaire Toronto prices to NYC prices, I live in Toronto and that’s my comparitor. Tuition and housing here have gone up more than 400% since I was in school in the 90’s and bought my first house in 2006. Salaries have not gone up, for example a new grad starting in my wife’s profession makes about $$4k/yr more than wife did in her first job in the mid 200’s. So kids starting out today are lucky to be able to ever buy a small condo, let alone a house. Even rent here is unaffordable now, about 3-4X what it was the last time we were renting in 2005-2006. The ratio’s aren’t the same as they were 20 years ago, you can’t work your way through school because you can’t make that much even if you are working full time. And when you are done school you can’t afford to buy a home and with rent probably can’t afford to save for a house, retirement or just savings. So your answer is if you can’t afford university don’t go, in which case you can’t expect to land a very good job. In Canada Universities are degree granting, college is certificate or diploma with some of them having degree transfer programs with universities, depending on the program college can still cost more than $20k/year. So go work with your high school diploma, and that’s another generation who will never get ahead.

        Also you said you don’t agree with kids being left hungry, but also that if someone goes on benefits with 2 kids and gets pregnant they are cut off, again punishing the kids.

        Believe me I understand arguments against what I believe in, to me it’s a moral decision that people should be given opportunities and help when they need it, and governments try to make systems equitable.

        I understand your positions reflect your moral position, that people should be pushed to improve themselves. Not that i don’t agree with that, what i’m saying is that things are stacked against many people, more than they used to be, and left or right there needs to be a solution at some point. It’s more reflective of my beliefs here in Canada, and that’s fine with me, why I never left Canada.

      • Wow.

      • Sorry if I’m not explaining myself properly, I understand what you’re saying I’m not even saying that you are wrong, it’s not how I look at it, that’s all I meant.

  5. Yes , to be honest I don’t understand why the owners have to pay the players for games that haven’t been played and may not be.
    As for the employees at the rinks the federal government in Canada has said people who lose work because of the virus would be eligible for EI payments.
    It is very nice that teams and players have come forward to help out the arena staff.
    To me if the season has been suspended more then 6 weeks it should be canceled. Everything would have changed so much it wouldn’t really be the 2019 – 20 season.
    Gotta go just got a deal on toilet paper