A third Colorado Avalanche player tested COVID-19 positive, the NHL said on Tuesday, not long after Commissioner Gary Bettman first admitted that it may not be possible to end the regular season and Stanley Cup playoffs doing so has traditionally done.
Bettman also said during an interview on NBCSN that ongoing uncertainty about the COVID-19 pandemic makes it impossible to predict a time frame for the season to resume.
The positive test for the nameless Colorado player brings the number of NHL players known to be positive to eight. Ottawa Senators recognized five positive tests among their players and one positive test among members of their tour group for games in San Jose, Anaheim, and Los Angeles from March 7-11. In addition, St. Louis broadcaster John Kelly – who played at the Honda Center on March 11th – and Ottawa broadcaster Gord Wilson said they had the novel corona virus.
The NHL suspended the game on March 12, with around 85% of their regular season schedule completed. The regular season should end last Saturday and the playoffs would probably have started on Wednesday. The NHL has recommended players and staff to isolate themselves by April 15, and is likely to expand that recommendation.
Speaking to NBCSN’s Mike Tirico, Bettman said League leaders are hoping to better understand the situation by the end of this month. “We look at all of our options. We want to be ready as soon as we get the green light,” he said. “Nothing was excluded, nothing was excluded.”
He added: “The best and easiest thing would be if we could end the regular season and then go into the playoffs as usual. We understand that this may not be possible. “
Bettman said a potential playoff format should take into account the uneven number of games teams played when the season was interrupted. “Everything we do has to be fair,” he said. “We are considering every conceivable alternative to deal with all eventualities.”
Conducting playoff games at neutral locations is an option that has already been discussed. Locations like Grand Forks, N.D. and Buffalo are potential candidates for hosting playoff games. Playing deep into the summer is a viable option. “The times when games had to be postponed because there was no air conditioning in a building were long gone,” said Bettman. “We can now make ice under all conditions. … ice will not be a factor.”
Bettman was one of about a dozen commissioners and league presidents who attended a conference call with President Trump last weekend, and Bettman described it as “a very warm, constructive conversation.” The consensus was that more information is needed before any league season resumption decisions can be made.
“All of us who play sports essentially focus on the same things,” said Bettman. “First and foremost, people’s health, well-being and safety are most important, and while we miss all sports, either dress or watch.” and we all want to come back as soon as possible, we understand what the # 1 priority is. “