Bettman Intent on Seeing NHL Return This Season

As we continue to look and wait to see when leagues are going to return to their respective playing surfaces, there have been plenty of what-if situations. With so much uncertainty going around, it’s tough to determine what anyone may be leaning toward at any given time. Things have been bandied about from everything from a return to business as usual to a complete washout of the rest of the season and wait until next year. One thing that we’re sure of, at least for now, is that the NHL plans to return to the ice this season.

Commissioner Gary Bettman, as part of a virtual town hall held by the San Jose Sharks about the state of the league, said that he fully intends to see the league return and play to hand out the Stanley Cup. During that session, Bettman had this to say about the league’s return:

“I believe that if the right time comes, and the right circumstances, based on all of the options that we’re considering and our ability to execute them, we’ll get this season done. I don’t want to sound Pollyanna, but canceling is too easy a solution. That means you stop working hard to do all of the things that we’re doing, and I ultimately believe that there will be an opportunity.”

Bettman was bolstered by the reopening of several states and cities in recent days in an effort to get things back to a semblance of normalcy. The announcement by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey about his state reopening for sports without fans beginning Saturday was another positive for Bettman to lean on in these trying times. As states continue to get back to normal, at least in some sense, it makes for more compelling reasons to get back on the ice at this stage of the game. It’s unclear as to which format the league will lean on at this stage for their return. Currently, the hope is that the league will advance to phase 2 of their plan to return to action later this month to get teams back on the ice, albeit in small groups at this stage.

One thing that the extended pause has done has given guys that were injured who could have missed the rest of the regular season and/or part of the playoffs a chance to get healthy. Steven Stamkos of the Lightning was expected to miss six to eight weeks after core muscle surgery just before the league paused. He’s back to skating at the Tampa Bay facility and says he’s ready to go should the league return. Seth Jones has been out since February 8 and underwent ankle surgery three days later. He, too, hopes to get back on the ice for the playoffs. Toronto’s blueline is in line to get a boost as well with Jake Muzzin and Morgan Rielly ready to get back to full speed.

Whether it’s in hub cities or in home arenas with no fans, whether teams finish the regular season or go straight to the playoffs and whether we see an expanded postseason field or a regular one all remain to be seen. What we do now is that Bettman is determined to see the Stanley Cup awarded and avoid just the third instance of it not being handed out since the league began. The other two times came in 1919 as a result of the Spanish flu epidemic while the 2004-05 season was wiped out by the lockout. Bettman doesn’t want to have a second year with no Stanley Cup champion on his ledger if at all possible. Look for him to pull out all the stops to crown a champion.

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Chris King

Chris King has been immersed in the world of professional and collegiate sports for more than three decades. Whether it's playing pickup games or being involved in organized sports to being a fan, he's checked all the boxes. From the NFL to arena football, the NHL to the KHL, the NBA to the WNBA to college hoops, and even MLB to the KBO. If it's out there, he's covered it and bet on it as well, as Chris has been an expert bettor in his career. Before joining Winners and Whiners back in 2015, his work appeared around the internet and in print. He's written books for Ruckus Books about college basketball, the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, golf, and the World Cup. If you're looking for the inside track on hitting a winner, do yourself a favor and read what Chris has to say.