Bettman made his comments during a virtual appearance at the Paley
International Council Summit that also included MLB commissioner Rob Manfred
and NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
The fact that border restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic will prevent
teams from moving smoothly between Canada and the United States is one impetus
for the proposed changes. The NHL also wants to limit teams' potential
exposure to COVID-19 without going so far as to introduce the complete
"bubble" environments that were used to complete the 2019-20 regular season
and postseason.
"Obviously, we're not going to move all seven Canadian franchises south of the
49th Parallel, and so we have to look at alternative ways to play," Bettman
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He added, "As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great
unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because
having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense.
It may be that we're better off -- particularly if we're playing a reduced
schedule, which we're contemplating -- keeping it geographically centric and
more divisional-based, and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal
with the travel issues."
Bettman said, "We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own
buildings without fans (or) fans where you can, which is going to be an
arena-by-arena issue. But we're also exploring the possibility of a hub.
You'll play for 10 to 12 days. 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 practical and sensible. And
so that's one of the things that we're talking about."
The league is aiming for a Jan. 1 start to the season.
"Our goal is to get back to a normal schedule starting (next) fall and being
done before July on a longer-term basis," Bettman said.
The NHL expanded its playoffs to 24 teams last season, but Bettman did not
express support for maintaining that change.
--Field Level Media
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