Bettman: NHL plans to finish suspended season

FILE PHOTO: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media prior to the ice hockey NHL Global Series match of the Florida Panthers vs Winnipeg Jets in Helsinki, Finland November 1, 2018. Lehtikuva/Martti Kainulainen via REUTERS

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league intends to finish the remainder of the 2020 season, halted in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bettman made the comments in a virtual town hall on Tuesday that was hosted by the San Jose Sharks for its business partners.

“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, per The Mercury News. “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.”

He said he was encouraged by the easing of stay-at-home restrictions across the country. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said Tuesday that pro sports could resume, without fans in the stands, in his state on Saturday.

“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.”

Bettman didn’t provide a timetable or a format for concluding the regular season and advancing to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. League officials previously said the NHL would be OK delaying the start of the 2020-21 season to late in the year if it meant the current one could be finished.

“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.”

--Field Level Media