NHL looking at short-term hubs, temporary realignment for next season – Press Enterprise

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday acknowledged what has been speculated about for several weeks around the league, that an 82-game season is unlikely, that divisions might be realigned and that short-term hub cities might be required because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ducks are believed to have lobbied to be one of the hub city hosts, based on the availability of practice facilities at Great Park Ice in Irvine and hotel rooms near Disneyland. In addition, the locker rooms and training facilities at Honda Center have been upgraded recently.

Negotiations between the league and its players’ union are ongoing, and nothing has been determined as far as the best way to conduct the 2020-21 season, but Bettman said he doesn’t foresee a return to the bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto that enabled the NHL to complete 2019-20.

At least not for an entire season, anyway.

It’s possible play could resume after Jan. 1, with teams playing in their own arenas, with or without fans in attendance, or in hub cities, or in some hybrid version of the two. Bettman has said he can envision the season beginning in a different form than it ends.

One plan could involve the league establishing four realigned divisions based in four hub cities, including one that would be comprised of the seven Canadian teams since the border between the United States and Canada remains closed to all nonessential travel.

The Ducks, Kings, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights could make up a realigned Pacific Division. The Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks would then join the four other Canadian teams.

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“You play for 10 to 12 days,” Bettman said of potential play in hub cities during a virtual panel discussion at the 2020 Paley International Council Summit. “You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family.

“We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need. It’s not going to be quite as effective as a bubble, but we think we can, if we go this route, minimize the risks to the extent (that they are) practical and sensible. And so that’s one of the things that we’re talking about.”

The NHL played 48-game schedules during lockout-shortened seasons in 1994-95 and 2012-13, with Western Conference teams playing only against Western Conference teams and Eastern Conference teams playing only against Eastern Conference teams. A repeat is possible in 2020-21.

The closure at the border complicates scheduling, according to Bettman. As it stood Tuesday, anyone who is granted permission to cross into Canada must quarantine for 14 days, which would make it impossible for teams to move back and forth between the countries in a timely fashion.

The Canadian government refused to allow Major League Baseball’s Blue Jays to play host to U.S. teams in Toronto this summetr, so they moved their home contests to Buffalo, New York. The NBA’s Toronto Raptors are facing a similar situation heading into the league’s 2020-21 season.