There appears to be some momentum for the NHL to finish the regular season and complete a traditional 16 team playoff scenario.
One of the major caveats to this would be the likely decision to have games played at four NHL venues across North America during a summer restart, NHL commissioner Garry Bettman told Sportnet on Wednesday night. Under the scenario, there would be three games played a day at the centralized locations,
“Maybe it’ll be two cities,” Bettman said during the interview. “It’s not something that we can predict right at this moment. But this is part of the contingencies. It doesn’t necessarily have to be by division, although the centralization could be by division.
“But the particular location could be anywhere that isn’t a hot spot and has what we need both in terms of the arena and having practice facilities, because if you bring in seven or eight clubs to a particular facility and you’re playing lots of games on a regular basis without travel, there does need to be ice for practice.”
When the season was put on hold on March 12, the Islanders were a game back of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final playoff spot in the east, with two games in hand. The Islanders had been scheduled to play Calgary the day the league halted the season.
If the four locations are based on division, that would likely mean the schedule would have to be adjusted. The Islanders, for example, are down to 14 games left in the regular season, but only six of those are divisional matchups.
And of the other eight games, only three are against teams in the northeast.
Neither city has been hit as hard as other areas of the country by COVID-19. Wake County, which is the county Raleigh is located in, has 622 confirmed cases of the virus, according to data by the Raleigh News & Observer.
The comments by Bettman put an end to speculation that the NHL was going to play games at neutral sites in non-NHL cities such as North Dakoda and New Hampshire.
New York is unlikely to be a potential site for games considering the metropolitan area is still fighting the COVID-19 outbreak and will be feeling the impact for some time.
The Islanders have six home dates left on the schedule, with four of them originally slated to be played at Nassau Coliseum. The other two would have been the final two games left to be played at Barclays Center.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had appeared at the Nassau Coliseum on Feb. 29 to announce that all playoff dates and all home games next season would be played on Long Island. Cuomo also announced that the federal government had agreed to allow New York to begin testing for COVID-19 at state labs that same day during his appearance on Long Island.