It’s been roughly six months since we last saw an NHL game — or, at least, so it feels. And much like the vastness of space and time, it’s felt like this pause in the NHL season may never end and we’re all floating through a black, quiet abyss, lost among the desolation.
Hyperbole aside, we can all agree it’s been a sad six weeks or so and sports has likely not been at the forefront of your mind. But still, you and I have been reading the news about the NHL’s latest updates, hoping the unlikely scenario of the season resuming might actually happen.
What once felt like an improbable longshot is now starting to seem like a legitimate possibility. We may get NHL hockey back this season after all.
Disclaimer: Personally, I don’t see it wise to continue the season in the state of the world we currently live in — I’m sure a lot of us don’t. But after all, the National Hockey League is an entertainment business and this decision to resume the season really comes down solely to money, as many decisions do in life, for better or for worse.
And if you haven’t been following the NHL’s updates over the last few weeks or so, allow me to fill you in on the updates on where things stand with a potential season comeback.
On March 12, the NHL followed the NBA’s measures in suspending its season “temporarily” in response to COVID-19. In the following days, the NHL issued a memo recommending its players self-quarantine until March 27. On the 17th of March, the first NHL player, an Ottawa Senator, tested positive for the coronavirus. Then on the 26th, the first Colorado Avalanche player tested positive, and then a second just a couple days later, and then a third on April 7. The identities of these players were kept under wraps — although I believe Cale Makar was one of the confirmed cases, though I’m probably just reading into it too much (“Personally, I just haven’t seen many symptoms,” he said in a SportsNet interview).
The NHL’s self-quarantine mandates were extended again through April 15 and then again through April 30. It started to feel as if the NHL would continue extending the quarantining periods by two weeks until the potential for a season resumption faded in the rearview mirror. Recently, however, the latest news is suggesting that the stage of self-isolation may be coming to an end at the conclusion of April, as many states and local municipalities are lifting their respective stay-at-home orders by May 1. Light at the end of the tunnel.
The NBA is going to begin reopening team’s practice facilities on May 1 in areas where local restrictions have been eased. That’s a good sign for the NHL, which shares a lot of the same facilities as the NBA, though at this point there’s been “no decision yet” on whether or not the NHL follows suit.
The New York Post was informed that at least one NHL team has told its players to be prepared for a May 15 return to facilites to begin informal practices. And then former NHL All-Star John Scott tweeted out that he was told by an unnamed source that NHL camps will resume on June 1.
Just got word that the NHL camps will begin again June 1... European players are coming back soon #breaking— John Scott (@johnscott_32) April 24, 2020
On April 22, commissioner Gary Bettman did a Zoom interview with SportsNet’s Ron MacLean, where Bettman stated that he thinks there’d need to be at least three weeks of training camps before the season resumed. So whether you trust The Post’s source or John Scott’s, that’d put a potential for games to begin around the second or third week of June.
Another issue to keep in mind is the U.S.-Canada border remaining closed. Recently, the border closure was extended another 30 days, putting the earliest possible reopening toward the end of May. It’s not unreasonable to assume it may be extended again. NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said “it’s going to be very difficult to do anything” if the borders remain closed. So there’s that little caveat.
When, or if, the NHL does resume, it sounds like the plan is to have games hosted in two to four NHL cities. According to ESPN, the possible host sites include Dallas, Vegas, Minnesota, Columbus, Carolina and Edmonton, presumably among others. The plan would be to have a few teams centralized in these two to four locations, where there would be multiple games played in a single day, i.e., as is done in the Olympics or other international tournaments such as the World Juniors.
It’s also known that these games would be played without fans in attendance for the remainder of the season. No matter what, that’s not going to change this season.
As far as the NHL draft is concerned, that remains postponed...or is it? While it’s been postponed for now from it’s usually late-June date, commissioner Bettman has mentioned the idea of still having the draft in June, meaning before the season officially ends. The thought is the draft would be held June 5-6, according to Elliotte Friedman. And much like the NFL was able to successfully do its draft virtually last weekend, the NHL’s draft would be done the same way.
But then how do you determine the draft order, you ask? It’ll be determined by teams’ point percentage at the pause of the season back on March 12. Point percentage is calculated by dividing the number of points a team has by the total number of possible points it could have gotten. In the NHL’s case, there are 82 games. Multiply that by two and every team can potentially collect 164 points in any given season.
Here’s a look at your bottom 10 teams:
San Jose: 0.45%
New Jersey/ Buffalo: 0.492%
Then presumably those bottom teams’ names would be thrown in the lottery spinner to determine draft order.
That’s where things stand at the moment. There is still quite a bit to figure out logistically, however, it appears as if we’re trending in the right direction. But for now, we continue to wait. We should all remain wary when it comes to the NHL coming back at all, as COVID-19 has proved to be a very volatile and continually-developing situation. Things are changing on a daily basis. Don’t get your hopes up, but don’t rule anything out.
Now whether or not its a smart decision by the NBA or the NHL to rush back into resuming its respective seasons, that’s a whole ‘nother debate.