Florida Panthers’ Cadwell: The NHL Plans To Return In July
It seems like the NHL is one of the most enthusiastic leagues planning for its return and even a possible 2020-21 schedule. Florida Panthers’ President and CEO Matthew Caldwell revealed that the NHL 2020 season plans to return in July in a conference call last Wednesday, April 22.
In the conference call tackling the Re-Open Florida Industry Working Group, Caldwell laid down the current plans of the NHL if they were to return in July: “The NHL is trying to target sometime in July when we feel that players are safe and we have enough testing and we have enough ways to get back on the ice…For us, it’s probably going to be contained at playing at four or five neutral sites. That’s all being discussed right now. My guess is that it would start with either limited fans or empty arenas.”
The return, however, is likely to include various neutral sites with little to no audience, as per the advice of health professionals led by Dr. Anthony Fauci of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for sports leagues and organizations planning to continue their 2020 season. Brian McLellan, Washington Capitals GM, even expressed his vision for the season continuation in order to deliver what fans want and at the same time control the risks involved during the pandemic.
Due to logistic reasons and advice from Dr. Fauci, the NHL declined the previous plan to consider non-NHL facilities on neutral sites. It was reported that Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, North Dakota (the University of North Dakota), Buffalo, New York, Manchester, and New Hampshire are being considered. But it seems like using non-NHL facilities might lead to facility and infrastructure-related issues as hosting and transporting multiple teams to and from one area isn’t ideal.
While still planning, Caldwell added that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman Bettman has been giving the 31 teams weekly updates regarding the return of the season, so all details might go public soon. Caldwell also admitted that the NHL is working closely together with the NBA on the matter of hosting public events. Both leagues cancelled their ongoing seasons at the same time last March.
If the NHL pushes through with the plan in July, the 2020 draft will take place in June before play resumes. Maintaining a full 2020-21 season is still the biggest priority of the league.