Your eyes do not deceive you as news originated from South Florida earlier today that hinted we could see a return to NHL hockey as early as this July. While it appears that major pieces still need to be put in place, there is no doubt of an obvious push from the NHL to complete what it started.
However, a few hours later ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski debunked the idea of neutral site games in Manchester or North Dakota. Rather the league would prefer to select “2-4 team arenas” with which to host the remainder of its games. Determining the locations is a slippery slope as “not being hit hard by COVID-19” is the primary requirement.
One has to imagine geography plays a major influence. For example, you wouldn’t pick the TD Garden and the Staples Center as the travel logistics would be a nightmare. Not to mention Boston, New York, and southern California are hotbeds for the virus. The United Center and Little Caesars Arena come to mind as the Blackhawks and Red Wings are set to finish well on the outside looking in of the playoffs. A mere 90-minute plane ride separates the two cities which boast an abundance of hotels to accommodate 16 playoff-eligible teams.
However, while symbolically a light at the end of the tunnel, this raises a fair amount of unanswered questions. Such as the length of each playoff series? Will we see the incorporation of a best-of-five or a continuation of the best-of-seven throughout? How many regular-season games will be played? How often will teams be allowed to travel? If we do in fact lose the remainder of the year, how will next year’s salary cap be impacted?
Despite the plethora of uncertainty early on, it is now more apparent than ever the NHL and NHLPA want to play. A solidified timetable for return likely won’t be released until all of the other details are nailed down. Until then, diehards, we wait.