At this point, it’s incredibly difficult to imagine a whole bunch of fans filing into a stadium to watch a hockey game any time soon. Despite that, the NHL still wants to finish off the 2019-20 season and the playoffs.
The NHL and the Players’ Association are apparently mulling over the idea of playing out the remainder of the schedule at neutral locations, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. Among the places being thrown into the ring is the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, home of the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks.
Apparently, “The Ralph” is regarded as the “Taj Mahal of hockey” and is apparently even nicer than a handful of current NHL rinks in operation.
But finding a nice stadium isn’t the primary concern here. There are plenty of logistical issues involved with playing out the remainder of the schedule, even in a neutral location. Players would need to be isolated from their families and their lives, as would all staff involved in the production of the games, like camera and video crews, team staffers, and food and beverage staff.
This report from Friedman comes right on the heels of news from the United Kingdom that the Premier League plans to return behind closed doors in June and July. The plan for the Premier League would be to play matches in a World Cup-style format in neutral locations while the players and everybody involved were under quarantine.
Again, the logistics make this wildly difficult to execute as just one person involved with the operation catching the virus would put the whole operation up in flames. It’s positive to see the NHL being creative and flexible in looking for solutions, but the primary concern here is health and safety.