NHL commissioner Gary Bettman remains determined to finish the 2019-20 season and crown a Stanley Cup champion.
Appearing in a virtual town hall hosted by the San Jose Sharks for members of the team's business alliance, Bettman said that canceling the rest of the season and not awarding the Cup is "not something I'm even contemplating."
"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," Bettman said, according to The Mercury News (San Jose). "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."
"States are re-opening, cities are re-opening," Bettman added. "And if we do the right things, I think we’ll be able to finish the season."
Obviously it's still unclear when the NHL might actually be able to return. There have been reports that they're targeting July, but no plan has been set in stone yet. There is also not yet a definitive plan on what the return would look like -- whether there would be regular-season games before the playoffs, or whether they'd go straight to a possibly-expanded playoff field.
"We would like to bring a conclusion to this season," Bettman said. "It’s got to be fair, it’s got to have integrity, and if we have to do it over the summer on some modified basis, then we’ll do it on that basis."
Bettman also confirmed that pushing back the start of the 2020-21 season is on the table. The NHL has made it clear it still intends to play a full 82 games next season, preferably with fans back in the stands. Delaying the start of next season would give players more time to recover after a postseason that could stretch into August or September, and the additional time could also increase the chances of fans being able to return.
"Obviously we hope to be playing in front of fans by next season," Bettman said. "But if we finish in August or September, there’s no magic to starting in October anymore. We can start in November. We can start in December.
"You’re going to be a little flexible with the schedule, because we want to be able to bring the game back, both to conclude this season on some basis and to have a full regular season next year. If that means we need to be more flexible, then that’s what we’ll do."