Gary Bettman: Canceling NHL season ‘not something I’m even contemplating’

The NHL 2019-20 season remains paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says fans shouldn’t be worried about a cancelation. The season was stopped back in March over health concerns for players, coaches, personnel and fans. A return plan has yet to be set, but rumors of leagues using centralized locations for games have taken over the sports world.

According to The Mercury News, Bettman discussed the cancelation at a virtual town hall on Tuesday and said cancelation is “not something I’m even contemplating.” He expanded on what he sees for the future of the season.

From The Mercury News:

“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. I don’t want to sound Pollyanna, but canceling is too easy a solution. That means you stop working hard to do all of the things that we’re doing, and I ultimately believe that there will be an opportunity.”

Bettman is focused on “doing the right things” in order to finish the season. He used the example of states and cities reopening as a sign of hope that the NHL will be able to return at some point.

The league is aiming to enter Phase 2 of their return by the end of May. The commissioner expressed that his priorities are awarding a champion at the end of the season, keeping everyone healthy and making sure that the remainder of the season is fair.

“We would like to bring a conclusion to this season. It’s got to be fair, it’s got to have integrity, and if we have to do it over the summer on some modified basis, then we’ll do it on that basis,” Bettman said.

With a late ending to this season, next season could be impacted. Bettman is not writing off pushing back the start to the 2020-21 season.

“Obviously we hope to be playing in front of fans by next season,” he said. “But if we finish in August or September, there’s no magic to starting in October anymore. We can start in November. We can start in December.

Players and staff are still in self quarantine and if the season does it resume, it will look different to ensure the health of those involved in games. Many leagues have made moves to restarting the season, with some sports even set to resume this month. A common thread among sports in North America during the pandemic is no fans at games, altered pre-game action to avoid overexposure and social distancing when possible. 

The only times the Stanley Cup was not awarded was during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1919 and the lockout that lasted the entire 2004-05 season.

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