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The NHL Is Getting Pitched By Small Towns Across North America To Host The Playoffs

The NHL, just like every other sport that doesn’t have an ‘e’ in front of it, remains on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first round of NHL playoffs should be underway, but at this point the regular season hasn’t officially ended and games are still on the books as merely postponed. At this point it seems clear that if the league were to resume play it would have a very different schedule, and possibly play a lot of games in the same venues to mitigate risk of contracting COVID-19.

According to ESPN, the NHL is getting pitches from small towns across North America to be the site of the NHL playoffs, if they are to actually happen this summer. While NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN’s Emily Caplan and Greg Wyshynski that the league was putting together a “laundry list” of things they would need from venues and cities to hold a quarantine league, they haven’t taken any real steps toward making it a reality.

“We do have people putting together the comprehensive laundry list of what we would need from facilities and evaluating some facilities on some level,” Daly said. “But I can’t tell you we’ve even finished creating a list [of potential sites], much less narrowed it down.”

Among the reported possible locations for neutral-site games, which would likely be held in empty arenas, are Grand Forks, North Dakota; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. But Daly said the NHL hasn’t even “created the field yet” in determining which sites would work.

The fact of the matter remains that while many are desperate for hockey to happen, there’s also a laundry list of things that would have to go perfectly for it to happen at all. Members of the Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche have officially tested positive, including a third member of the Avs more than three weeks after the initial shutdown of the league itself.

Ensuring everyone in the NHL has consistent access to testing, that people living in these more remote places perhaps not as severely impacted by the pandemic could be safe, and that no one would get sick and shut down the postseason again are just a few of the concerns. There’s also more logistical concerns such as proper practice and workout facilities, lodging and how television contracts can be honored by a more abbreviated postseason and, presumably, the cancelation of the regular season altogether.

These quarantine league ideas are novel and every major sports organization appears to be working on one as we bide our time in isolation, but the fact of the matter is they would be extremely difficult to pull off and offer a bevy of problems that may only make things worse. Good on places like Manchester, New Hampshire to shoot their shot at pro sports in a crisis, though.