NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman suggests potential “creative” playoff format

The National Hockey League made the decision to pause their regular season schedule one day after the NBA did the same in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19, otherwise known as coronavirus.

The timing of the decision came when several teams were jockeying for position in the standings and looking to solidify their chances of making a long playoff run, while several others were in prime position to make a run just to get into the dance.

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The playoffs were scheduled to begin in early April, but so far there’s been no indication on when (or even if) the League will resume play.

“We had, throughout the last few weeks, been constantly analyzing what was evolving, what the situation was, and what our responses need to be, and what all the possible contingencies could be,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday during an interview. “We were exploring whether or not it was going to reach a point in time we needed to completely shut down, whether or not we needed to take a break, or how we would continue to play — whether it was in all empty buildings relative to fans, or in part-empty buildings, depending on what local jurisdictions were doing.

“But in all of those scenarios and in every discussion I would have, either internally or with clubs, particularly owners, I would always end it with the caveat, ‘You understand that if a player tests positive, we’re done for the time being, at least.’ So I always understood that to be the case.”

The NHL decided to take the prudent course and suspend play after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, immediately causing the NBA to halt regular season play.

“I said, ‘At this point, it’s inevitable that an NHL player at some point is going to test positive. We’re not going to get through this current season as scheduled, and we might as well just shut down now so that we don’t get to the point that we have to react the way the NBA did,’” Bettman explained.

So what are the options that the League is looking at should play resume at some point in the near future?

“We have an internal task force that has been meeting two times a day, in the morning and afternoon, and we are exploring every contingency. We’re looking out in [the] calendar to see, ‘Well, what’s the last day we could be playing under other scenarios?’ and then backing it up. And then what are our options in the timeframe that’s available?” Bettman told Sportsnet 590.

“We’re doing all sorts of modelling, whether it’s completing the existing regular season as is and then a full playoffs, or whether or not based on time constraints we’re going to have to make adjustments and do something different, novel, creative.”

At this point, fans may not care about the specifics of how “creative” this potential format could be as long as they get their hockey back! And thankfully, Bettman is holding out hope that the Stanley Cup will indeed be skated at some point this season.

“And so, my hope and expectation is that we can finish the season in some form, award the Stanley Cup, and then be able to move on knowing that we accomplished that goal of finishing the season for our fans,” he said.

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