NHL general managers held a conference call on Tuesday as the league grapples with the suspension of its 2019-20 season due to the coronavirus outbreak. With two Senators players testing positive for COVID-19, the NHL announced that it was extending its self-quarantining period 10 days, shifting the earliest NHL facilities could re-open to early April. Tuesday, Kettler Capitals Iceplex announced it will remain closed until further notice.
“The self-quarantine period should continue through and including Monday, April 6, unless a longer period might be required for some players in accordance with local mandates that could be related to their recent travel,” the NHL wrote on its updated FAQ page.
The NHL has also asked teams to provide more potential home dates later into the summer.
“It wasn’t on the GM call per se today, but earlier today, the National Hockey League did request from each of its 31 member clubs to provide available home dates for the month of August,” TSN’s Bob McKenzie said on Insider Trading. “[N]o one knows anything for sure, but what we can start to figure out here is that if we’re going to have playoffs [in 2020], there’s a real good chance those could be as late as August.”
The NHL remains flexible about restarting its season and part of that is due to the large financial hit they could take. The league does not believe that there’s a meaningful insurance payout on the way that could help soften the blow of its mammoth loss.
“Guys, you can bet the NHL will do whatever it takes, no matter how hot it is, to get back on the ice if they can because what’s at stake is a potential revenue loss of north of one billion dollars if this 2019-20 season does not resume,” TSN Insider Frank Seravalli added. “[The revenue loss] affects both the owners and players because when you look at it, the players here are on the hook for 50/50 of the revenue split. That also includes losses. So what are the players doing in the meantime to protect themselves. I’m told the NHLPA does not plan to increase escrow withholding in the players’ paychecks. The next check is due on March 30.”
If the league plays into July and August, player contracts will need to be adjusted as they end on June 30.
“One legal technicality that’s going to need to be addressed and some general managers has brought this up, the contracts, technically at face value, expire at the end of June,” McKenzie said. “Normally, July 1 is the first day of the new hockey year if you will. If we’re playing in July and August, obviously there needs to be some legal situations in terms of extending those contracts and that would also impact work visas for European players.”
The league will also have to put more money into ice creation and maintenance in the late summer months.
“For starters, it’s going to cost more money,” Pierre LeBrun said. “It’s going to put more a stress on those buildings in term of refrigeration and obviously air conditioning in the heat of summer. To pull this off, it’s going to take a lot more diligence, a lot more supervision from league officials. But at the end of the day, the answer is simply is yes, the NHL can do this in July and August in terms of keeping the ice going.”
Dr. Winne Meuwisse, the NHL's chief medical officer, says he can't predict when activites will resume because COVID-19 is still accelerating. "Until we see where the peak is going to be and how high that peak is going to be, it’s really difficult to give a definitive timeline."
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 25, 2020
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