Bruins President Cam Neely is in NHL zoom meetings just about every day as a member of the NHL Board of Governors while the 2019-20 NHL regular season is on pause. And the Hall of Fame Bruins forward still sees a pathway to the NHL completing the 82-game regular season followed by a full two-month Stanley Cup playoff tournament to award the Cup this season.
Once NHL teams get the clearance to start skating in small groups at their practice facilities, a three-week training camp period would be followed, in theory, by teams playing three weeks of regular season games at one of four NHL designated areas across North America designed to host each of the teams in their division. Multiple reports have pegged a potential date in July that the NHL would re-start the season while leaving the league to start the 2020-21 regular season sometime in November with an 82-game season still expected for next year as well.
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Per ESPN.com, Carolina, Minnesota and Edmonton along with a TBA Atlantic Division location are the front-runners to host the three weeks of regular season games played Olympics-style with multiple games each day.
There would need to be rapid, universal testing in place for all individuals involved with the games being played, including the players themselves, and the players would need to be quarantined for the duration of the season remaining.
Both things won’t be easily accomplished, obviously, and is part of the reason that there’s no timetable to re-start the season for at least a couple of months.
"Everything is on the table based on conversations that I’ve had with the league.
"I can tell you this. Both the players & NHL ownership want to do whatever possible to get this season completed,” said Neely, on a Thursday afternoon virtual town hall with Bruins season ticket-holders. “If that means playing into the summer then we’re all willing to do that. The feeling is there’s an opportunity to be able to push next season back and still get an 82-game schedule in next year. Everything is on the table to try and get the [2019-20] season completed.
“Obviously we have to see what happens nationally and North America-wise.
Players are doing everything they can to keep themselves in the best shape possible before we get back to some kind of training camp and get on the ice. I know our players are very excited about it based on where we were when the pause took place and the potential that our group has.”
Interesting, Neely added that he didn’t think the NHLPA was going to approve any scenario where the NHL would jump straight into a playoff tournament without any regular season games to ramp up to the postseason. The Bruins president also presented a pretty sobering scenario where there could be a flat salary cap for a couple of seasons to come for the NHL based on the harsh economic ramifications of the coronavirus outbreak globally.
But the bottom line is that there is still strong hope that the NHL will be able to complete the current season, and that is the kind of hope that keeps people going while pushing through the current hardships of social distancing and self-quarantining across the country.