NHL Central Zoom call with Roman Josi, Jonathan Toews, Alex Pietrangelo Nashville Tennessean
The NHL has been on pause for more than a month in response to coronavirus, but the league is actively looking at ways to restart the season once it is safe to do so.
Whether the season will be completed or the playoff field expanded to include several bubble teams remains to be seen, but the NHL has been in talks with select, smaller cities about potentially hosting games.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu confirmed to Boston sports radio show The Greg Hill Show on Friday that he has spoken with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman about the prospect of such games being played in Manchester.
“I’ve had discussions about that. Don’t know whether it’s going to happen but we are talking about it,” Sununu said. “That’s all I can really say right now.”
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The governor went on to say that venues, assuming games would be playing in various rinks around the city, would have to agree to terms set out by the league.
“We have to make sure ‘What are the liabilities here? What if a team were to get sick? How is it going to managed?’ We’re working through some of those logistics but it’s on the table for sure.”
Those logistics include weighing the impact of bringing players and team staff together to one location for an extended period, Bettman said.
“When we decide it’s time to play, we have to be able to get everybody back and be comfortable that not only are we not infecting the population of players but that were not bringing the coronavirus from other places into jurisdictions where the players and other personnel are going,” Bettman told Fox Business News this week.
NHL games may be played without fans
Manchester is not the only location the NHL has been looking at potentially holding games at. Grand Forks, North Dakota, home to the University of North Dakota’s rink, has reportedly been floated, too.
Ralph Engelstad Arena has hosted NCAA Hockey and World Junior tournaments and like SNHU Arena in Manchester, has hosted NHL preseason games. NHL regular season or playoff games have been played at either facility.
Should plans for such games go ahead, possibly by late as July or August, the league has said it would be open to playing the games without fans in order for the season to progress.
“It’s not our preferred result or outcome,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told NHL.com. “Our goal is to be as prepared as we possibly can be for any eventuality and to be able to react to the situation on very little notice to kind of set a course,” he said. “But at this point, it continues to be premature to set that course.”
Nate Chute is a producer for the USA Today Network. Follow him on Twitter at @nchute.