NHL hopes to resume after suspending season
March 18, 2020
After pausing the regular season last Wednesday following the emergence of novel coronavirus COVID-19, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman hopes to resume the NHL season, according to NHL.com
The decision to postpone the NHL season followed a positive coronavirus diagnosis for Rudy Gobert of the NBA’s Utah Jazz, the first high-profile athlete to contract the virus. Since Gobert’s diagnosis, athletes across all sports have tested positive for COVID-19, with an undisclosed player from the Ottawa Senators becoming the first NHL player to test positive, according to team representatives. Nevertheless, Bettman says the NHL continues to monitor new developments surrounding what the World Health Organization (WHO) defines as a pandemic.
“The last couple of weeks, we, like everybody else, have been monitoring what’s been going on, and we went from dealing with things on a day-to-day basis to an hour-by-hour basis, and then it was in minutes,” said Commissioner Bettman. “And we were constantly evolving our strategy as to how we were going to have our teams playing or not playing, or under what circumstances.”
According to Bettman, once the NBA canceled its season, the NHL adopted a preemptive stance to derail the progression of the virus.
“I decided it was time to get ahead of it and not wait for one of our players to get tested, because in all likelihood, at some point in time, we weren’t going to get through the rest of the season without a player testing positive,” continued Bettman.
The NHL sent players and staff home, asking players to voluntarily self-quarantine. However, though the NHL season is on indefinite hiatus, Bettman stressed that the season was on pause rather than suspended.
“I’m a little hesitant to use the word suspension because our hope and our expectation is, when things get back to normal and it’s safe and it’s prudent, that we can go back and resume the season and ultimately have the Stanley Cup awarded,” explained Bettman. Bettman didn’t explain how late into the year the NHL would be willing to extend the season, stating that his staff is developing contingency plans on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s going to evolve. We’re looking at all contingencies, and when the circumstances are right that we can play, then we’ll look at what we can do,” said Bettman. “My hope is that at some point we’ll get back to some normalcy, and that’s not just my hope for the NHL, and it’s not just my hope for all sports, it’s my hope for everything that’s going on.”
Amid the uncertainty of a delayed NHL season, players and organizations banded together in an effort to assist arena employees affected by lost wages.
Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky initiated a fundraising effort to help raise money for part-time BB&T Center employees, donating $100,000 to aid workers. The Pittsburgh Penguins pledged to raise funds through player donations, the Penguins Foundation and the Mario Lemieux Foundation to help offset lost earnings.
The San Jose Sharks and New Jersey Devils also announced plans to pay workers. Washington Capitals’ owner Ted Leonsis announced his plan to pay day-game workers their regular wages and compensate them again if the games are rescheduled.
Anaheim Ducks owners Henry and Susie Samueli promised to pay all full and part-time Honda Center employees, per the Los Angeles Times.
Various other organizations pledged assistance to those impacted by the employment forfeitures caused by coronavirus COVID-19, with every organization outside of the Boston Bruins communicating their intention to help.
The Penguins have announced a plan to pay full and part-time arena/service employees who would otherwise lose income on regular season games due to the pause in the NHL season.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 13, 2020
In the interim, some players are attempting to make the most of their time off. Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog acknowledged that losing the NHL season “sucks,” but that he is using the time off to invest in family time and leisure.
“No hockey absolutely sucks, but it also means more family time and lazy mornings in bed. Stay healthy out there! @ Denver, Colorado,” tweeted Landeskog.