NHLPA's Fehr: Having Full '20-21 Schedule In Place "Critical"
NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr said that, like the league, the players "believe that whatever steps are taken to try and salvage what remains" of this season and/or the '20 Stanley Cup Playoffs, having a "full 82-game schedule in place for the 2020-21 season is critical," according to LeBrun & Burnside of THE ATHLETIC. Fehr said, "There is no posturing, there is no attempt, so far, to take advantage of this or that or the other." He added, "But practical and businesslike is the way that I would put it and, at this point, I would expect that to continue. We talk at one level or another to NHL people several times a day every day." LeBrun & Burnside noted while Fehr "confirmed that talks aimed at hammering out a new collective bargaining agreement have been put aside as 'there are more immediate things on the agenda,' he did suggest that this journey into the unknown with the league may help pave the way to not just a new labor agreement but could help forge a new relationship with the league." Meanwhile, Fehr said of his view of potential August hockey, "The question is not July or August hockey in the abstract. Is that a good time of the year to play it? The question is, if that’s when the time becomes available, does it make sense to play it?" (THEATHLETIC.com, 3/25).
HOLDING PATTERN: Fehr said of the NHL potentially allowing players to compete at the '22 Beijing Games, "Players and everybody else will have thoughts about how much the world has changed or if they're really certain that this makes sense to do this for health and safety reasons." He added, "In terms of what the NHL might do, in terms of games outside of North America, that will have to be determined based on what the facts are. My assumption is that if, and when -- and hopefully soon -- we get back to the point where the borders are opening in and you can have international travel, those kinds of concerns that we’re talking about will have been diminished to an extent that they won't be serious" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 3/25).
PUSHED BACK: In N.Y., Brett Cyrgalis notes the NHL combine in Buffalo, awards event in Las Vegas, along with the draft in Montreal, "have been postponed." The league also "decided to extend the players’ self-quarantine from the original date of March 27 to April 4." Cyrgalis writes it "seems rather optimistic that the NHL and the Players' Association will be able to work through all of the details needed to restart the season at any point without ruining the start" of the '20-21 season. Now that the Tokyo Games have been pushed back to '21, there is a "big broadcasting opening for NBC in late summer." The league's broadcast affiliate "certainly would love to have some hockey at that time, but it's hard to gauge whether that's going to be possible" (N.Y. POST, 3/26).
WORST IS STILL TO COME: NHL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Winne Meeuwisse yesterday said that he "expects the coronavirus pandemic to get worse before it gets better in North America and differences across 31 markets are likely to affect when players might get back on the ice." He added that it is "difficult to predict when cases of COVID-19 might peak or begin to decrease." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said league officials ''continue to hold out hope that at some point we'll be able to resume play." But he added that it is also "too early to know whether fans would be allowed in arenas should that happen." The AP's Stephen Whyno wrote as much as the NHL "can do to try to stem transmission of the new coronavirus, it is at the mercy of state, provincial and local authorities in areas where regulations and lockdown protocols vary." Meeuwisse said, ''If the health authorities are vastly different in 31 different markets, it's going to be hard to have a unified approach as a league" (AP, 3/25).