NHL needs to make up its mind

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First it was the NBA. Now it’s the NHL exploring the possibility of using Las Vegas as a landing spot to resume its season.

The self-contained “bubble” concept that was being floated by MGM Resorts for the NBA works easily. Everyone stays at Mandalay Bay’s trio of hotels (Mandalay Bay, Delano and Four Seasons) and plays at the property’s Events Center and the convention area. It’s not hard to lay down a basketball court and start practicing and playing games.

It’s a bit more problematic for the NHL. Hockey requires ice and it’s going to take more than one sheet for Las Vegas to work. Fortunately, there are options. There’s T-Mobile Arena, of course. But there’s also the MGM Grand Garden across the street and a couple miles down the road, there’s the Orleans Arena, which has hosted hockey since its inception. If practice ice is needed, City National Arena, the Las Vegas Ice Center and Sobe Ice Arena are available. Yes, it would necessitate leaving the “Bubble” but with everyone getting tested regularly and limiting the travel to essential personnel (players, coaches, trainers and equipment managers), you minimize exposure and risk.

Regardless of where and how the NHL chooses to resume its season, it’s going to come down to safety for all who participate. Can the league get the requisite number of COVID-19 tests it needs and have those test results produced in a timely fashion in Nevada? Residents of the Silver State still can’t get tested arbitrarily for the coronavirus. You either have to make an appointment to get tested or have the symptoms in order to get a test in a lab. So how will that sit with people who can’t get tested while professional athletes get tested multiple times? That’s an optic the NHL is sensitive to and should be concerned with.

Assuming the testing procedures get worked out, what happens when a player tests positive? Do you shut everything down again? Or does that individual go into quarantine for 14 days and the show goes on, much like the UFC did when one of its fighters and two cornermen tested positive.

From what I have read and heard, the players want to resume the season. This 24-team tournament proposal is gaining traction and it is a way to get everyone some much-needed game action while also helping determine the 16 teams which will compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The latest idea is two “hubs” of 12 teams, one for the Eastern Conference, one for the Western Conference. Las Vegas could be the Western hub. The tournament would allow the participating teams’ local television deals to be fulfilled and bring some revenue back to the league. It would obviously generate huge ratings early on.

It would also be a boon to sportsbooks across the country as betting would no doubt be big. But the betting aspect would be big regardless of where the NHL resumes its season. So being in Vegas is not an issue.

There are still a ton of issues which need to get sorted out. And the clock is ticking. The NHL can’t wait forever. Its draft scheduled for late June is coming up fast. A decision on that needs to be made whether to hold it as scheduled or push it back until after the season.

The league’s Board of Governors was scheduled to meet Monday, as it has done every week since the league hit the pause button March 12. Perhaps we’ll get some clarity as to what the NHL intends to do.

Other sports are back to work. It’s time for both hockey and basketball to figure out a plan and implement it. Everyone’s waited long enough and their patience is starting to wear thin.

About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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