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Bettman confirms NHL could delay start of 2020-21 season, if need be – Sportsnet.ca

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While the majority of the focus regarding the NHL’s resumption of play in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has been on finishing off the suspended 2019-20 season, commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed Thursday that next season may also be impacted by the league’s hiatus.

Speaking with the NHL Network by phone, Bettman said the league isn’t unopposed to delaying the start of next season, if need be.

“We have a great deal of flexibility in terms of when we can start,” Bettman said. “There’s no magic for next season of starting in October as we traditionally do. If we have to start in November or December, that’s something that will be under consideration.

“We’re going to try and make good, prudent, careful judgments. This isn’t a race to be first back. When we come back, we want it to be at the right time, for the right reasons, under the right circumstances.”

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman noted the possibility of a delayed 2020-21 campaign in his ‘31 Thoughts’ column Wednesday, pointing to the reluctance to play more fan-less games next season.

“A December start for the 2020–21 season is a real possibility, both in the NHL and NBA,” Friedman wrote. “The leagues realize that games with fans this summer are not happening. No one likes that, but everyone recognizes it’s a necessity. Next year? I think there’ll be much more pushback to fan-less games.

“Carolina owner Tom Dundon went public with his dislike, and he’s not alone. One exec, who shares a building with an NBA team, says he wouldn’t be surprised if that league starts on Christmas Day, with the NHL a couple of weeks earlier.”

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston joined Tim & Sid recently to break down what a delayed start would look like for the league as well, noting he’s heard two dates mentioned among team personnel over the past week.

“Some think it could be Dec. 15, give or take, for the start of next season for the League, some think immediately after Christmas — Dec. 27 [or] 28,” Johnston said.

With the Olympics looming large on the schedule next summer, and there being potential overlaps in terms of the American TV partnerships, that means 2020-21 could also be a shortened season given the need to conclude before the Olympics begin.

“That timeframe, I think, is probably too condensed — even if you get rid of the All-Star break and the bye weeks and other things — to stage 82 games,” Johnston said. “Someone told me they could see it being 70 games, that kind of scenario, if we’re looking at a late-December start-up.”

No decisions have been made on when a potential return will take place, though, or what that return could look like. Commissioner Bettman said Thursday that he’s pleased with how discussions have gone between those involved in the Return To Play Committee, noting he’s been in contact with NHLPA executive director Don Fehr on a near-daily basis.

“Having the committee that’s been put together with the players is important so that we can get the feedback on the issues that are important to them and how to resolve them, and that we can be communicating how we’re focusing on the things we think that need to be done,” Bettman said. “It’s been extraordinarily collaborative, constructive and cooperative, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the interaction that we’re having.”

The next step in resuming play will be re-opening training facilities, Bettman said, as the League is intent on giving players the chance to return to game shape before being asked to start the season, or post-season, up again.

“We’d like our guys to be able to work themselves back into shape. But this is something we’re going to continue to evaluate on a day-to-day basis,” Bettman told the NHL Network. “Our health concerns for the players really fit into two categories: One is obviously COVID-19, and two, whatever we’re going to do, we don’t want them playing games until they’re back in game shape.

“So we’re going to continue to monitor things, and when the guidance from the medical people is right and the governmental authorities are comfortable, then we’ll take step one, which is reopening our training facilities.”

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Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl, Alphonso Davies share bond in pursuit of history – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON — Different, but the same.

Cologne-born Leon Draisaitl becomes a superstar as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, while Alphonso Davies, born to Liberian parents in a refugee camp in Ghana, stars in the German Bundesliga.

The Davies’ arrived in Edmonton 15 years ago with next to nothing, Alphonso and his brother receiving their first bikes and soccer balls from an Edmonton charity called Sport Central. Draisaitl, meanwhile was the son of German hockey royalty, though he admits, “Germany just isn’t a big hockey country. That’s how it is.”

Today, Draisaitl is the Art Ross Trophy winner, the first German to become a scoring champion in an international league. Meanwhile Davies is in Deutchland, playing for Bayern Munich and fast becoming the best left back in the Bundesliga, if not the world.

“It’s funny,” Draisaitl said on a Friday Zoom call. “I actually talked to him today over the phone.”

The African kid with dazzling feet met the Cologne kid with 100-point hands when Davies dropped a puck at an Oilers game over the winter. He rolled in for the morning skate, and the two exchanged numbers.

“We stay in touch,” said Draisaitl, bedecked in a ball cap sporting the ‘K’ of his hometown soccer team (Koln). “I guess I kind of know what he’s going through right now, with soccer being so big back home, and hockey being so big in Canada. Coming over and trying to adjust. Find your rhythm, find your game… find your life a little bit, I guess.

“He’s becoming a very, very good player, he’s fun to watch and it’s fun to see.”

It will be fascinating to watch these two ascend in their sports, as both appear destined for a place not just near the top. But at the top, where only the very best players reside.

You’re rolling your eyes? Read on:

Draisaitl was the only 100-point player in the NHL this season, and as such, the only NHL player to have back-to-back 100-point seasons. Only Alex Ovechkin (99 goals) has more than Draisaitl’s 93 goals in the past two seasons.

Draisaitl is still 24, remember, with two 100-point seasons and one 50-goal season under his belt. He is in his fifth full NHL season.

Jarome Iginla played 21 seasons — more than 1,500 games — and is a walk-in, first ballot Hall of Famer in these eyes. He had two 50-goal seasons, but never scored 100 points.

Mats Sundin, a lanky, smooth centreman like Draisaitl: Never scored 50, had one 100-point season.

The Sedins brothers: One 100-point season each — neither scored 50.

Same for Daniel Alfredsson.

The great Saku Koivu? A career-high 75 points in 2006-07.

Young Mark Scheifele, a Team Canada shoe-in at the next international tournament, hasn’t had a 90-point season yet.

Draisaitl will turn 25 on Oct. 27, maybe later this season, perhaps early next. He’s is just now entering his prime, with an early scoring resume that many Hall of Famers already can’t touch.

“You know, when you come to numbers like this, there are always people who help you get there,” he said. “You dream of these things, no question. But until you do it, it seems so far away. I’m proud, in a way, but I still have lots of things to work on. It’s the cliché: There are many things in my game I can improve.”

We’ve said many times that Draisaitl has become what Evgeni Malkin is to Sidney Crosby for Connor McDavid. And as the Oilers furnish their two superstar centremen with enough wingers to consistently deploy them on separate lines, Draisaitl has found a way to be the power play shooter that McDavid needs him to be, and the puck-trading centreman Ryan Nugent-Hopkins requires. He was en route to a career year before the pause.

Along the way, Draisaitl has helped to solve a riddle that has puzzled this organization since they drafted Taylor Hall a decade ago. He has grown into a leader, a quality the Oilers no longer need to import from outside.

“When you’re young there’s not much for you to say,” Draisaitl said. “First of all, your play on the ice doesn’t have as big of an impact as it does now, at 24 years old and being in the league for a while. You change as a player, you change as a person a little bit… It’s been great to stick around the same group of guys for so many years now. Watching them grow, watching the team, the organization grow.”

McDavid is growing into his captaincy, the way his role on the Return to Play Committee helps him mature in his role as one of the faces of the game. Darnell Nurse is a leader here, a kid who grew up around athletes and has the DNA that it may take to finally resurrect this franchise as a winner.

If the NHL is the best league in the world, then the Oilers have two of the Top 10 players in the world in Draisaitl and McDavid. There is no reason, no excuse, why the Stanley Cup should not return to Edmonton in the near future.

“It’s definitely a lot of fun to be a part of,” Draisaitl said. “We still have a lot of upside as a team, and it’s fun to go through that, essentially with the same guys you started with.”

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Report: NBA owners expected to approve Orlando restart with 20-22 teams – theScore

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Find out the latest on COVID-19’s impact on the sports world and when sports are returning by subscribing to Breaking News push notifications in the Sports and COVID-19 section.

The NBA’s board of governors is expected to approve commissioner Adam Silver’s recommendation to resume the 2019-20 season in Orlando in a vote scheduled for June 4, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne.

A 22-team format is gaining support among the board’s members, who are also considering a 20-team proposal, Wojnarowski and Shelburne report.

The recommendation lines up one of the proposals Silver and the board reportedly discussed during a Friday conference call; under that proposed format, teams within six games of a playoff berth would continue to play regular-season games, with a play-in tournament determining the final postseason field.

Six teams outside the playoff picture were within six games of a berth when the league announced a hiatus on March 11 due to COVID-19: the Portland Trail Blazers (3.5 games behind), New Orleans Pelicans (3.5), Sacramento Kings (3.5), San Antonio Spurs (four), and Phoenix Suns (six) in the Western Conference, and the Washington Wizards (5.5) in the East.

Targeting July 31 as the date for the NBA’s return to action was also reportedly discussed during Friday’s call.

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Dr. Bonnie Henry open to special arrangement for NHL teams visiting BC | Offside – Daily Hive

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After firmly stating that British Columbia wouldn’t “bend the rules” for NHL teams earlier in the week, in the event that Vancouver was chosen as a hub city, Dr. Bonnie Henry has clarified things.

The BC Provincial Health Officer noted that a different arrangement could be made for visiting NHL teams, allowing them to quarantine as a group, rather than in self-isolation. Her comments echo what Alberta’s top doctor said one day prior.

“We certainly have been talking about how it could be done safely in British Columbia as well,” said Dr. Henry. “The bottom line is I have not seen any proposal, certainly not any written proposal from the NHL about how this could propose to be worked. So it’s hard to respond to what we think they might be thinking.

“But I do see how we could potentially have small numbers of people cohort together and in self isolation, for example in a hotel and management monitoring regularly. And I know if anybody could do that, then the NHL is probably set up to do it. So I can see how we could have something like that work in British Columbia as well.”

Canada’s mandatory 14-day self-isolation quarantine rule is a problem for the NHL, as the league doesn’t want to stunt the fitness of some its players prior to restarting their season. If a different arrangement isn’t made for the NHL, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly indicated that the league would not select a hub city in Canada. Vancouver, Edmonton, and Toronto are currently on the NHL’s shortlist, along with seven cities in the United States.

NHL teams are expected to operate in a figurative bubble, with an arena, practice facility, and hotel blocked off from the public. Commissioner Gary Bettman has said the league would need an “unbelievable amount of testing” for its players, but noted that it would not want to disrupt local medical needs.

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