Report: NHL targeting July return, no longer considering neutral sites


New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said on The Greg Hill Show last week that the reported plan to potentially use Manchester as a neutral site for the NHL if and when the season resumes was "on the table," but it appears that is no longer the case.

According to a report from ESPN's Greg Wyshynski, the NHL is no longer considering neutral sites and is instead focusing on restarting the season at league arenas. The plan would be for each division to play at one of the arenas in that division, and Wyshynski points to Carolina, Minnesota and Edmonton as the current favorites for the Metropolitan, Central and Pacific Divisions, respectively.

The report says a front-runner for the Atlantic Division, which includes the Bruins, has not yet emerged.

The plan to use neutral sites was reportedly scrapped "due to problems with player accommodations, facilities for league and team staff, and the ability to bring multiple broadcasting crews to cover potential Stanley Cup playoff games."

Earlier on Wednesday, Florida Panthers president and CEO Matthew Caldwell said that the league was targeting a July return.

"When we are able to come out of the quarantine period, players are going to need time to work out. I think all leagues are thinking about some training camp that we would do before the start of the season," Caldwell said on a Re-Open Florida Task Force conference call, as first reported by "The Andy Slater Show."

"So that's going to take us into the June time frame. At least with the NHL, we're trying to target some time in July. When we feel that players are safe, and we have enough testing and we have enough ways to get back on the ice, for us it's probably going to be contained at playing at four or five neutral sites. So that's all being discussed right now. My guess is that we would start with limited fans or empty arenas. So just with the teams and the associated staffs."

WEEI's Christian Fauria added some details of his own, reporting that there is a plan to have players return to their team cities in late May or early June and have a three- or four-week camp to get ready to finish the regular season before starting the playoffs. Fauria adds that the plan would be for each team to get to 76 regular-season games so everyone would be on equal ground. Right now teams have played between 68 and 71 games already, so that would mean five to eight regular-season games once they return.

I'm hearing players are being told to head back to their cities last week of May, first week of June. 3-4 week camp to get ready to FINISH regular season then playoffs. @DaleEArnold

— christian fauria (@christianfauria) April 22, 2020

Also hearing that teams have to play a minimum of 76 games regardless of postseason opportunity.

— christian fauria (@christianfauria) April 22, 2020

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