NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is optimistic the league will find a way to resume the 2019-20 season and said canceling the campaign outright is “not something I’m even contemplating,” according to Curtis Pashelka of the Mercury News.
Appearing in a virtual town hall with San Jose Sharks business members on Tuesday, Bettman expressed confidence that a champion will ultimately be crowned this season.
“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 halted play on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Players and staff are still in self-quarantine, but the league hopes to initiate Phase 2 of its return plan by late May.
“States are reopening, cities are reopening,” Bettman said. “And if we do the right things, I think we’ll be able to finish the season.”
Though details are still unclear, the NHL is reportedly leaning toward jumping straight into the playoffs upon return.
Reported playoff proposals include a 24-team tournament featuring the top 12 clubs in each conference, as well as the traditional 16-team format.
Multiple players, including superstars Connor McDavid and Marc-Andre Fleury, said in late March the league shouldn’t immediately begin the postseason, citing rust and player safety. The NHL has since said teams will hold training camps to help players get back into game shape before returning.
There have only been two instances in NHL history in which the Stanley Cup was not awarded – during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1919, and the lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.