The NHL season was officially postponed on March 12, joining the NBA and MLB in the decision. There were questions about whether or not the remainder of the season would take place or if the Stanley Cup would not be awarded. Now there is a potential for the season to return, albeit much later than expected.
According to The Province, the NHL is currently examining the possibility of bringing hockey back by July in order to play out the remainder of the season. The teams would not simply head to their home arenas, however. The plan being considered would actually result in them heading to one of four centralized cities to play their games. The sites would be determined based on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected specific cities.
JUST IN: NHL looking at restarting season in July.
Games would be played at 4 or 5 neutral sites with limited or no fans, according to Florida Panthers president Matt Caldwell.
On the conference call, he said this plan is not finalized.— Andy Slater (@AndySlater) April 22, 2020
The plan is currently in flux, and it's unknown if the NHL will actually return in July. If it does, fans would likely not be allowed to attend. There is also a potential for a shortened remainder of the season in which the league constructs a "play-in" tournament. This unconventional style could preemptively eliminate teams such as the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks that were already out of playoff contention.
"We will continue to monitor all the appropriate medical advice, and we will encourage our players and other members of the NHL community to take all reasonable precautions – including by self-quarantine, where appropriate," the NHL's statement read on March 12. "Our goal is to resume play as soon as it is appropriate and prudent, so that we will be able to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup. Until then, we thank NHL fans for your patience and hope you stay healthy."
When the league originally announced that the season would be postponed, TSN's Frank Seravalli reported that the NHL was doing its due diligence in regard to finishing the season. Teams had been asked to provide arena building availability through the end of July. That timeline led to questions about whether the NHL Draft would be delayed or if free agency would be pushed to Aug. 1. Those answers are currently unknown, but the NHL is examining every possible option.