NHL: League exploring reduced schedule, short-term hubs for 2020-21 season

FILE PHOTO: Jun 21, 2019; Vancouver, BC, Canada; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks before the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports


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(Reuters) - The National Hockey League (NHL) could have a reduced schedule, temporary realignment and short-term hubs in the 2020-21 season amid the COVID-19 crisis, the commissioner of the U.S. and Canada-based league Gary Bettman said.

Speaking during a virtual panel discussion, Bettman said teams would rotate in and out of hubs if that was the way forward but any plan would be a collaborative effort between the league and its players' body (NHLPA).

"You'll play for 10 to 12 days. You'll play a bunch of games without travelling. You'll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We'll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need," Bettman said https://www.nhl.com/news/nhl-could-play-reduced-schedule-for-2020-21-season/c-319607032.

"It's not going to be quite as effective as a bubble, but we think we can, if we go this route, minimise the risks to the extent practical and sensible... that's one of the things we're talking about."

Border restrictions due to the pandemic will prevent teams from moving smoothly between Canada and the United States and Bettman said that was another factor to consider.

"Obviously, we're not going to move all seven Canadian franchises south of the 49th Parallel, and so we have to look at alternative ways to play," Bettman added.

"While crossing the U.S.-Canadian border is an issue, we're also seeing within the U.S. limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states. It's again part of having to be flexible."

The NHL and NHLPA said last month they were targeting Jan. 1 as the start date for the 2020-21 season.

The 2019-20 season stalled by the pandemic was completed on Sept. 28 when the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup in a bio-secure bubble in Edmonton, Canada.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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