Completing NHL season 'may not be possible' - chief

·2 min read
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says completing the suspended 2019-2020 season may not be possible (AFP Photo/BRUCE BENNETT)
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says completing the suspended 2019-2020 season may not be possible (AFP Photo/BRUCE BENNETT)

Los Angeles (AFP) - National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman acknowledged Tuesday the 2019-2020 season could be abandoned as administrators wait to see how the coronavirus pandemic unfolds across North America.

In an interview with NBC Sports Network, Bettman said the NHL was leaving all options on the table as the league attempts to plot a course back to a resumption following its COVID-19 shutdown.

The league halted play last month as the coronavirus crisis sent professional sports in the US grinding to a halt.

With play wiped out in April -- when the postseason had been due to start -- the hiatus leaves the NHL on a tight timetable to complete its season.

Bettman admitted that the shortening window could make completing the season impossible.

"The best thing, and the easiest thing, would be if at some point we could complete the regular season and then go into the playoffs as we normally do," Bettman said.

"We understand that that may not be possible and that's why we're considering every conceivable alternative to deal with whatever the eventuality is.

"It doesn't even pay to speculate because nobody in any of the sports knows enough now to make those profound decisions."

Bettman participated in a weekend call involving professional sports administrators and President Donald Trump.

While Trump has voiced optimism about sport resuming "sooner rather than later", Bettman has damped down speculation of a swift return.

"I think right now there's too much uncertainty," said Bettman. "Hopefully we'll all know more by the end of April.

"From an NHL standpoint, we're viewing all of our options. We want to be ready to go as soon as we get a green light -- and the green light may not be crystal clear because there may still be some places where we can't play and others places where you can. We're looking at all options. Nothing's been ruled in, nothing's been ruled out.

"And it's largely going to be determined what we do by how much time there is because we have next season to focus on as well."

Recent reports have suggested the NHL is mulling the possibility of playing games at neutral venues. Similar proposals have been floated for the stalled Major League Baseball season.

However Bettman cautioned that any neutral venue solution would need to guarantee fairness to all teams in the NHL.

"That's just part of considering all the potential options, depending on how we find the circumstances," he said.

"But when you talk about fairness, we also have issues about if we get to play a playoffs, who gets in if we can't complete the regular season."