The latest on the league’s efforts to resume the season, an update on the 2020 NHL Draft, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
LATEST ON THE NHL’S ATTEMPT TO RESUME THE SEASON
THE MERCURY NEWS: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman dismissed the notion the league won’t resume its season and award the Stanley Cup later this year. Speaking at a virtual town hall hosted by the San Jose Sharks for its business alliance, Bettman said he wasn’t contemplating canceling the season. “I believe that if the right time comes, and the right circumstances, based on all of the options that we’re considering and our ability to execute them, we’ll get this season done,” Bettman said.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman not contemplating canceling this season (Photo via NHL.com)
Bettman also suggested that close discussions with the NHLPA on the current situation could lead them closer to a CBA extension. He indicated the league’s Seattle expansion franchise remains on pace to begin in 2021-22. He acknowledged the need for standardized cleansing of arenas. Bettman also said the league is working on new ways to connect with its fans through social media and other means.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The possibility of long-term labor peace between the NHL and NHLPA could be the silver lining that emerges from this pandemic. The current CBA expires in 2022. The last thing the league needs is another lockout within two years of a shortened season.
THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): In an interview with Pierre LeBrun, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league hasn’t locked into any potential playoff format. Daly also indicated the league and the PA hopes to launch Phase 2 of its Return to Play plan at some point over the next month.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Growing speculation suggests the NHL could return with a 24-team playoff format. There’s also talk of jumping straight into a 16-team format based on current standings or points percentage, or a 20-team format to allow playoff bubble clubs an opportunity to play their way into the post-season bracket.
Daly said there remains no rush on the league’s part to stage the 2020 NHL draft in June. LeBrun believes we could find out one way or the other sometime next week.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports teams are stepping up their preparations for this year’s draft while awaiting final word from the league. LeBrun speculates Bettman and Daly could be having second thoughts about their scheme for a June draft after getting pushback from general managers. Daly has indicated the league needed a month to prepare if they hold the draft in June. If they give the go-ahead next week, the draft could be held between June 17 and 23.
Regarding the possibility of resuming the season in four neutral-site host cities, Daly indicated the league is starting to cut down the list of possible hosts. LeBrun points out the league has a window between July and October to resume the season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: B.C Premier John Horgan will speak with Bettman today about Vancouver becoming a host city. Chris Zimmermann, the president and CEO of business operations for the St. Louis Blues, wants his city to be a host. A rumor emerged claiming Arizona was a front-runner, but a league source dismissed it as “completely false.”
TSN: Darren Dreger reports the hope is for Phase 2 to begin later this month, but he adds it’s impossible to determine a true deadline.
“Now, some of the protocol in Phase 2 is pretty obvious. It’s small gathering stuff. It’s social distancing. It’s scheduled shifts when players are allowed to return to their home clubs. It’s small dedicated team staff working on training and whatnot. It’s strict sanitization protocol. All of this could be decided and determined and agreed upon at some point this week. It could drift into next week,” said Dreger.
LeBrun reported the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2020 selection and announcement will proceed on June 23 and 24. It remains to be seen if the induction ceremony will be carried out as scheduled on Nov.16.
Bob McKenzie reported on the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks declaring bankruptcy. He indicates it was related to owner Bill Gallacher’s issues in the gas and oil industry and having to file Chapter 11 for his parent company. For now, this is a one-off, but McKenzie warns there might not be any junior hockey if there are no fans in the stands in 2021.
IN OTHER NEWS…
ARIZONA SPORTS: Arizona Coyotes president and CEO Ahron Cohen is no longer with the organization.
MONTREAL GAZETTE/NEW YORK POST/STLTODAY.COM/LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, and Los Angeles Kings joined a growing number of NHL clubs offering refunds or crediting options to season-ticket holders for games canceled by COVID-19.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins announced four-month furloughs for several employees because of the ongoing pandemic.
THE ATHLETIC: Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon denied a report out of Finland claiming Panthers center Henrik Borgstrom was considering signing with the KHL’s Helsinki Jokerit. “We talked to his agent, and that is not true,” said Tallon. “Maybe it is a bargaining tool. But according to his agent, his preference is to sign with us.”