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NHL’s Gary Bettman ‘not even contemplating’ canceling season

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman arrives at the 2019 NHL Awards at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 19, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday that canceling the season without crowning a champion was “not something I’m even contemplating,” according to The Mercury News’ Curtis Pashelka.

The comments came in response to a question as Bettman was speaking to members of a San Jose Sharks business alliance, the Mercury reported.

“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.”

The NHL has been holding meetings with its stakeholders such as its board of governors and the players association. According to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, Wednesday marked the second day in a row that the NHL and NHLPA Return to Play Committee held a call.

Ideas on how to resume the NHL’s season, which stopped on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic, have varied greatly, and ESPN reported that the league is “focused” on going straight into the playoffs instead of trying to complete what was left of the regular season.

Some NHL players have noted that jumping straight into the postseason could be an excessively harsh transition unless there is some lesser hockey played first, like a preseason or regular season. The consensus seems to be that playoff hockey, noted for its physicality and intensity, would require some considerable on-ice preparation for players to safely play.

One popular format being floated is a 24-team playoff, which would allow the league to jump straight into the playoffs without being unfair to teams that were on the bubble of the playoff picture. The Coyotes, for example, would not qualify for a normal 16-team playoff if the season ended now, but the team is four points out of a playoff spot and had 12 games left, eight of them at home.

There have also been reports of hub cities, using one city from each of the NHL’s four divisions to hold multiple teams. This could mitigate the issues involving different municipalities having different rules about gatherings like sporting events, which draw a large number of people in one place even without any fans.

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