New York (AFP) - National Hockey League officials still want to finish the regular season and stage a full playoffs despite a coronavirus pandemic shutdown, even if a Stanley Cup winner comes in August.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league has asked arenas about availability to the end of August, aided by the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics freeing up television opportunities.
"I think as time has gone on, we've recognized we might have a bigger window than we had originally thought with respect to the summer months and when we have to finish things to be ready for a full regular season next year," Daly said.
"Depending on how things play out, we'd love to be playing sometime in the spring, and then if we have to leak into early summer, we'd love to have that problem.
"But I don't think we're far enough along in understanding where this is going to know what's possible at this point in time.
"We think if we were required to, we might have the ability to play in August. If we have to fit games in, we'll find ways to fit games in."
The NHL paused its season March 12 with just over three weeks remaining in the regular season before a two-month playoff run.
Three NHL players have contracted the coronavirus, two from the Ottawa Senators and one from the Colorado Avalanche.
Daly says some players have tested negative and others have results pending.
"We're getting a handle on the overall health of the NHL community, and I think by all accounts, we're relatively healthy, knock on wood," Daly said. "I think that bodes well as we kind of continue to navigate this and continue to hope for an opportunity to return to play."
Daly eased worries by some players they would not be in shape after quarantines if the NHL went directly into the playoffs when it returned. Others want the chance to play the final games to try and grab a playoff spot.
"There's going to be an adequate training camp with an ability to get back up to speed," Daly said.
"In terms of the first meaningful game, I'm not in a position to say what that's going to look like, but we certainly understand the sentiment and the concerns about kind of jumping right back in."