The 2019-20 NHL season is in limbo after it paused play last month to contain the spread of COVID-19, but the league's preeminent figure anticipates a return as opposed to cancellation.  Wayne Gretzky, the NHL's all-time leading scorer, told the Associated Press he's confident hockey will return by the summer.

"I really believe somehow, someway, that the leadership in this country and in Canada, that we're going to figure this out," Gretzky told the AP on Sunday. "And I really believe that we'll see hockey and some sort of other sports in June, July and August, albeit in a different way, but I really see it coming to fruition. I think it's going to happen."

The NHL needs to clear multiple hurdles for Gretzky's plan to be fully realized. They would likely need to find a neutral-site venue suitable for players, coaches, team personnel, hotel employees and more to safely quarantine and receive periodical medical testing. Before that, international players would need clearance to enter North America from their respective countries, and both the United States and Canada – including their local and state governments – would have to accept the risk of their entry.

Many variables need to align in the NHL's favor for the 2019-20 season to resume, some more realistic than others – even if it's only for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But Gretzky, the man who coined the phrase "you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take," sees the league taking that advice and returning despite the odds.

"Maybe I'm wrong," he said. "Maybe I'm too optimistic. I think I'm not. I hope that that's a good sign for everyone that we're moving on in life, in business, in sports. I really see in the next couple months something good happening."