The 2019 - 2020 National Hockey League regular season has come to a screeching halt but throughout the shutdown NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and his subordinates have expressed a message of optimism when it comes to finishing out the season in one fashion or another. In spite of the fact that there seems to be no end in sight to the current situation impacting the globe there has been talk of the NHL playing out the season at a neutral site and some fans have even allowed themselves to get their hopes up that we will indeed see a Stanley Cup Champion crowned in 2020.
On Saturday however those hopes took a serious blow when the head of the National Hockey League Players Association, Donald Fehr, spoke with ESPN and appeared to indicate that those plans were nowhere near close to becoming a reality. Fehr stated flatly that there had been no conversation between the NHL and the NHLPA regarding playing at a neutral site in spite of the numerous reports indicating that the NHL was indeed fielding offers from cities across North America.
"Other than the general understanding that they're looking at all possibilities, which includes neutral sites -- neutral being defined as a place that isn't a home base for an NHL team," Fehr told ESPN. "We haven't had those discussions yet."
Fehr went a step further with his comments as well stating that he would not feel comfortable allowing players to return to action without assurances from various health agencies that it was safe to do so. Fehr cited that there would need to be confidence at the federal, state, and local levels before moving forward with resuming the season.
"You're going to want to know what the CDC says, without any question at all. But in addition to that, as we all know, the state governors and the provincial prime ministers have the basic responsibilities over their own jurisdictions, so you're going to have to work with them too," Fehr said. "The implication of the question is whether it's OK to play in some places and not others. I don't know if that's true. I assume it's certainly possible. If it is, we'll see what makes sense."
Additionally Fehr stated that "it's going to be very difficult to do anything" as long as the borders between Canada and the U.S. remain closed, and thus far there is no sign of that ending either. Earlier today Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated that the border would remain closed for at least an additional 30 days, which rules the immediate future out of the question based on Fehr's comments.