NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman insisted Wednesday players will be able to return to the ice this season and every option is on the table in regards to their safety and playing out the rest of the year.
Bettman appeared on “Mornings with Maria” and told Maria Bartiromo and said the league is capable of playing into the summer months but is focused on putting healthy safety first.
“We’re focused on being as flexible and as agile as possible and when we get the opportunity from a health standpoint to bring our players together, to let our teams reconstitute themselves to get operations up and running, we’ll be able to do that whenever it makes sense,” he said. “And we believe we can be fairly flexible in terms of the calendar and my guess at this point is we’re probably gonna be playing into the summer, which is something we can certainly do.”
Bettman was asked whether the NHL was considering antibody tests for players or taking temperatures before they hit the ice. The commissioner said everything was on the table.
“We’re checking all of the above boxes because ultimately, as you and I have just discussed before, we can begin as a business standpoint we got to be comfortable that we have the appropriate medical protocols in place because keep in mind we’re gonna have to have our players travel from virtually all over the world,” he said.
“We have lots of our players certainly in Canada, not just the United States, and we also have a fair number of players in Europe and so when we decide it’s time to play we gotta be able to get everybody back and be comfortable that not only are we not infecting the population of players but we’re not bringing the coronavirus from other players into jurisdictions where the players and other personnel are going.”
Bettman said the league has taken into account the players’ competitiveness in regards to how the season is going to be restructured when play begins again. Several teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences were in the hunt for a wild-card playoff spot.
“Whatever we do to come back, and this is what I’m talking about being agile and flexible, we’re gonna have to do something whether it’s complete the regular season in whole or in part, whether or not it’s expanded playoffs,” he said. “We’re gonna have to do something that’s fair and has integrity. That’s going to be very important no matter what it is we do and we’re considering all of the alternatives and nothing has been ruled in and nothing has been ruled out.”
Bettman said a neutral site hasn’t been ruled out. Like MLB possibly playing all games in Arizona, a report was floated about the NHL possibly playing games in North Dakota.
He said the league has been considering “all of the alternatives” and was exploring the possibility of playing at neutral sites.
The NHL has not played a game since March 11.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview with Snapchat's "Good Luck America" there have been proposals about playing games at neutral sites and keeping players in "big hotels" and making sure they're rigorously tested.
“But there's a way of doing that because there have been some proposals both at the level of the NFL, Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, to get these people tested, and to put them in big hotels, you know, wherever you want to play,” Fauci said. “Keep them very well surveilled, namely a surveillance, but have them tested, like every week. By a gazillion tests. And make sure they don't wind up infecting each other or their family. And just let them play the season out. I mean, that's a really artificial way to do it, but when you think about it, it might be better than nothing.”