NHL commissioner Gary Bettman remains optimistic that the league's 2020 season can be resumed.
In a virtual town hall hosted by the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, Bettman ensured that he still plans to crown a champion this year and that going without one is “not something I’m even contemplating.”
“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. “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.”
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the country, Bettman said he is encouraged by the steps taken by states to re-open businesses. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced that professional sports will be allowed to proceed without fans starting on May 16.
“States are re-opening, cities are re-opening,” Bettman said. “And if we do the right things, I think we’ll be able to finish the season.”
The NHL does not yet have a firm timeline for restarting the season. Bettman has stated that he would consider pushing the start of the 2021 season to December if it allows for the current one to be completed.
“Obviously we hope to be playing in front of fans by next season,” Bettman 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. You’re going to be a little flexible with the schedule, because we want to be able to bring the game back, both to conclude this season on some basis and to have a full regular season next year. If that means we need to be more flexible, then that’s what we’ll do.”
Bettman added that he has been in communication with figures from other major league sports in regards to establishing a common set of standards needed to return to action. The AHL canceled the remainder of its season on Monday.