Report: Plan to conclude NHL regular season in four cities being discussed

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – Maybe, just maybe, there might be some Red Wings hockey to watch this summer.

According to a report from Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada and Sportsnet, the NHL is discussing a potential July return in four centralized cities – one in each of the four divisions – with an aim to conclude the regular season.

Dylan Larkin

The NHL paused its season March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Red Wings had 11 games left on their schedule, with most teams in that range, as well.

Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed some details Wednesday night to Ron MacLean on Sportsnet.

Bettman said as many as three games could be played at each venue, per day, but adding nothing has been decided or finalized.

"Ideally from our standpoint -- and it would resolve a lot of issues -- would be if we could complete the regular season, even if it's on a centralized basis, and then go into the (Stanley Cup Playoffs) the way we normally play them," Bettman told Sportsnet. "That would be ideal. But that's, again, one of the numerous models we're looking at, and if we can't do ideal, if we can't do perfect, we're going to have to figure out what's next to perfect."

The cities - there could be as many as four centralized locations- would be areas where COVID-19 has been relatively controlled, and any restrictions in those cities would allow hockey to be played.

Edmonton, Raleigh, N.C., and St. Paul, Minn., are three cities that reportedly would fit the criteria. None of the three, though, are in the Wings’ Atlantic Division.

"Maybe it'll be two cities," Bettman said. "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 may 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."

Bettman said a training camp of approximately three weeks would be held before the regular season would be resumed.

Fans aren’t likely to attend the games.

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There is no potential time-frame for how long this regular-season conclusion would take.

This blueprint has replaced the idea of a neutral-site pod location, an idea the NHL felt didn’t work because of logistical problems, including accommodating many teams.

Also, any proposed plan, such as this one, would have to be agreed to with the NHL Players Association.