In a media Q&A this week, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman talked about the financial impact of COVID-19 on the league going forward and hinted that there could be a resumption of play by the end of July.
On the financial toll of the coronavirus, Bettman stated that obviously in the short‑term the impact has been severe thanks to no revenues coming in and expenses still there. However, he noted that clubs have been “very judicious and sensible” in terms of how they’ve been dealing with their own organizations and helping the community with food and money donations.
“Fortunately our franchises have never been stronger,” he told the media. “Our franchises have never been better owned in terms of the strength of our ownership, although my guess is most owners in all sports are probably not as wealthy as they were 12 weeks ago.
“But I believe based on our condition, while it may be painful and some substantial losses in the short‑term and maybe getting to the intermediate term, we will get through this. We’ll get through this with all of our franchises. And, as we typically do when we come back from a challenge, we’ll come back as strong if not stronger.”
The big question for fans and the sports betting sector is when will play actually resume, with late July or early August currently mooted. Bettman advised that the league will be in a more informed position once it has completed Phase 2 of its planned restart.
“We’re going to get a better sense of when to start training camp and how long we need for training camp in Phase 3, and then we’ll move to Phase 4,” he suggested. “I think it’s conceivable that we’re playing at the end of July, could be the beginning of August, and then playing into September, somewhere around that time frame.”
The Commissioner also said that things could open up quicker if players get back sooner, feel they’re in shape and don’t want a prolonged training camp. “But I think realistically if we’re in training camp mid‑July, that would be a good thing, and if we could be playing by the end of July, beginning of August, that would be a good thing, too,” he added. “But if it has to slide more, then it’ll slide.”
While many would like a much firmer date to pin to the calendar, Bettman remained coy on making such a commitment. He commented: “There’s a reason that we’re not giving you dates now because anybody who gives you a date is guessing, and we think we’d rather take a more holistic approach to doing this.”