NHL Reportedly Considering North Dakota Among Options to Resume Season

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 6, 2020

MONTREAL, QC - DECEMBER 11:  The NHL crest is seen on a linesman
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The NHL is reportedly considering finishing the rest of its season in North Dakota when play returns following the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, the league and the NHL Players' Association have discussed a number of hypothetical situations wherein the rest of the regular season and playoff games could be held for the 2019-20 campaign and mentioned North Dakota as a possible destination.

Friedman suggested the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks is somewhere that "makes sense" because it has hosted marquee events such as the 2005 World Junior Championship and the 2016 World Under-18s, and it's an "impressive facility that is definitely more suitable than many other available non-NHL options in the United States."

While there would be a number of challenges, such as finding enough hotel space for all the players, staff members and team personnel, Friedman pointed to the fact that North Dakota has a relatively low population density, which could help to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

For now, the NHL and the majority of the sports world are taking a wait-and-see approach as the virus has shut down play across the landscape.

The league suspended play March 12, one day after the NBA, and is now in a situation where it is discussing different options for somehow finishing its season.

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Even going straight into the playoffs would be challenging for the league from a standings perspective, as the wild-card race features a difference in the number of games teams have played.

For instance, the Columbus Blue Jackets hold the final spot in the Eastern Conference with 81 points, but the New York Islanders have played two fewer games and have just one less point. Columbus has more total points, but New York has earned a higher percentage of possible points, so a decision may need to be made about which team would advance.

The league could also expand its playoffs with shorter play-in-situations to account for such a scenario, although that would mean more games are necessary to get into the typical eight-teams-per-conference playoff bracket.

The league is discussing contingency plans, and North Dakota could be a factor with much left to be determined.