Tavares and Return to Play Committee admit to uncertainty regarding NHL return

The leader of the NHL’s Return to Play Committee expresses his doubts on whether or not hockey will return.

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We’re now, what? Like 70 days into quarantine now? The NHL officially closed its doors on Thursday, March 12th and, frankly, it feels like years ago. One minute we’re in the thick of a fantastic playoff race in the stretch drive of the 2019-20 season and the next moment we’re watching old Nordiques and Bruins highlights on YouTube. Please, NHL… just give me hockey back.

There’s been plenty of talk recently about the league resuming play in a 24 team Stanley Cup Playoffs format, but even members of the league’s own Return to Play committee has expressed some doubts and uncertainty.

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares heads up the NHLPA’s Return to Play committee along with Connor McDavid, Mark Scheifele, James van Riemsdyk and Ron Hainsey and the group has been working closely with the league on a possible return to action.

“Certainly there’s still a priority to finish the regular season and play the playoffs,” Tavares explained in an exclusive interview with Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt.

“Guys understand how fortunate we are to play a game for a living, and if we have that opportunity, we would be very excited about that, especially knowing the state the world is in, and the positivity that could bring back,” Tavares said. “But, at the same time, the health and safety measures have to be at the highest of standards.”

And therein lies the biggest problem. How can you ensure the safety of the players and people involved? There’s no fail safe plan, but will the league go ahead anyways? If so, what’s the format?

“But as time goes by, you have to consider all our options with the information we have. The 24-team concept has been brought up quite a bit,” Tavares said referring to an expanded 24 team Stanley Cup Playoff format. “But there’s been other concepts, other numbers of teams. We’ve thrown around everything. Nothing’s been decided on.”

“I’m not sure I’m completely 100% sold on any format.”

Honestly, the idea of a larger playoff format is appealing to me, but where do you draw the line? How do you arbitrarily cut teams out of the picture?

“The biggest thing is honouring the regular season as best as we can while still giving each team that deserves the opportunity, or still has an opportunity to make the playoffs, to be a part of that.”

Makes sense. Still… give me a 31 team Stanley Cup Thunderdome and I’m tuning in all-day everyday for it. Who am I kidding? I’d tune into a high school floor hockey match right about now…

For the full interview, click below: