Gary Bettman Says Canceling NHL Season 'Not Something I'm Even Contemplating'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2020

FILE - In this May 27, 2019, file photo, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media before Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final between the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins in Boston. The most aggressive timetable, a person familiar with discussions told The Associated Press, would have players returning to their home rinks as early as May 15, followed by a training camp and possible exhibition games in June. Bettman emphasized no decisions have been made and cautioned government and medical officials will ultimately make the call on when sports can return. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday that canceling the remainder of the 2019-20 season without a Stanley Cup champion is "not something I'm even contemplating."

Curtis Pashelka of the Bay Area News Group provided comments Bettman made during an appearance in a conference call hosted by the San Jose Sharks.

"I believe that if the right time comes, and the right circumstances, based on all of the options that we're considering and our ability to execute them, we'll get this season done," he said. "I don't want to sound Pollyanna, but canceling is too easy a solution. That means you stop working hard to do all of the things that we're doing, and I ultimately believe that there will be an opportunity."

The campaign has been halted since March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

ESPN's Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski reported Monday the NHL is focused on an idea featuring four "hub" cities to host a remainder of the regular-season games and the playoffs without fans in attendance. They said the league is "not in any rush" to finalize a plan, though.

Bettman appeared to echo that sentiment Tuesday, saying he's willing to delay the start of the 2020-21 season to finish this campaign, per Pashelka:

"Obviously we hope to be playing in front of fans by next season. But if we finish in August or September, there's no magic to starting in October anymore. We can start in November. We can start in December.

"You're going to be a little flexible with the schedule, because we want to be able to bring the game back, both to conclude this season on some basis and to have a full regular season next year. If that means we need to be more flexible, then that's what we'll do."

Bettman added the NHL's new team in Seattle remains on track to debut in 2021.

The Stanley Cup, which has been awarded since 1893, has only gone two years without a new champion—1919 because of the Spanish flu pandemic and 2005 because of a lockout.

All teams had between 11 and 14 regular-season games left when the season was stopped. The Boston Bruins had the best record with 100 points, followed by the reigning champion St. Louis Blues with 94.


Bleacher Report's David Gardner interviews athletes and other sports figures for the podcast How to Survive Without Sports.