Chambers: Is commissioner Gary Bettman really genuine about the NHL’s return? – The Denver Post

Often-booed NHL commissioner Gary Bettman might be gaining fans with his “Pollyanna”-type optimism about restarting the 2019-20 season. But at the same time, he could just be playing politics — assuring the public he has considered all avenues of a return while knowing there is little or no chance.

The only sure thing Bettman has in a possible return is the NHL’s strong television contract with NBC and its partners. That’s a deal the American Hockey League doesn’t have and why the NHL’s top development loop canceled what remained of 2019-20 last week.

Without fans, the NHL still has a revenue stream and can build its brand. The Stanley Cup could be awarded with millions watching from their couches. And if they are allowed to watch from their favorite eatery or watering hole, we at least would know the coronavirus crisis is slowing.

According to The Mercury News, Bettman told members of the San Jose Sharks’ business alliance that not completing 2019-20 and not awarding the Stanley 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. “I don’t want to sound Pollyanna, but cancelling 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.”

He added: “States are re-opening, cities are re-opening. And if we do the right things, I think we’ll be able to finish the season.”

What that will look like probably won’t be like anything we’ve ever seen. The return might go straight into a 24-team playoff based on current points percentage, with the worst seven teams not even returning for a training camp. In that scenario, seeds 17-24 — or even 13-24 — would be playing a mini-tournament with elimination at stake while the top 12 seeds play for seeding.

The Avalanche, standing second in the Central Division and Western Conference behind St. Louis, could perhaps face the Blues in a short series to determine the division and conference No. 1 seed while the lower seeds play to advance to the big dance.

That’s just one example. Many more are out there. And each of them makes sense with the television deal.

“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 said.

Dallas Stars owner Tom Gaglardi on Saturday told TSN radio in Vancouver that hockey will return this summer if COVID-19 testing is available to everyone in the picture.

“There’s a very high likelihood,” Gaglardi said. “I think that the league is determined to complete the season, and I would concur that not finishing the season is not on (Bettman’s) mind at all. I expect we will play the season. I think we’re down to logistics. I keep saying it, people that talk to me are tired of hearing it, but it really comes down to being able to test — effectively test on a timely basis. If we can test, I think the season is going to happen.”

Winning. There’s a forecast of close to 80 degrees Sunday. But if you’re not out and about, the NHL Network is showing the Avs’ two Stanley Cup-winning games at 10 a.m. (Game 4 vs. Florida Panthers in 1996) and 2 p.m. (Game 7 vs New Jersey Devils in Denver).

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