Gary Bettman, commissioner of the National Hockey League, sat down with Ron Maclean of Sportsnet to discuss the question on every hockey fan's mind: when is the season coming back? The short answer is about the same as what most commissioners of major sports leagues would give -- that they're working hard to come up with a plan to safely return -- but there are important touchstones Bettman mentioned that are worth exploring.
The first has to do with player safety. While that might seem self-explanatory given the coronavirus pandemic, Bettman expanded the definition of the phrase to include not just preventative measures for COVID-19 but also making sure that players are in shape when they return to the ice. To that end, he noted that there would need to be at least three weeks of training camp before the season starts back up again.
"There needs to be at least 3 weeks of training camp."@NHL commissioner Gary Bettman joins @RonMacLeanHTH to discuss what the league's latest plans are to return following the COVID-19 lockdown.— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 22, 2020
Catch the full #InConversation episode tonight on Facebook & YouTube at 7pm ET. pic.twitter.com/pkOqEXpiqO
But even more notable is the question of how a revived season looks. That's something that Bettman also addressed in his Sportsnet interview, while also emphatically stressing that the current strategies on the table are contingent. The plan that was given the most attention was the idea of splitting the league among four cities. There would be three games in a day in four NHL arenas in this theoretical plan, and each arena would need to have at least four locker rooms to accommodate the multi-game schedule.
"Maybe it'll be two cities," the Commissioner told Sportsnet. "It's not something that we can predict right at this moment. But this is part of the contingencies. It doesn't necessarily have to be by division, although the centralization could be by division.
"But the particular location could be anywhere that isn't a hot spot and has what we need both in terms of the arena and having practice facilities because if you bring in seven or eight clubs to a particular facility and you're playing lots of games on a regular basis without travel, there does need to be ice for practice."
The NHL season has been on pause since March 12 as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. League players and staff have been advised to self-quarantine until at least April 30. You can watch Bettman's entire interview below.