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NHL exploring all options for resumption of season, Bettman says

Commissioner reviewing ideas but safety of public is most important factor before returning to play

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

The NHL continues to explore all options for resuming the season while waiting for clearance from authorities, after pausing the season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

"When we'll have an opportunity to return depends on things that we have absolutely no control over, because it all starts with everybody's health and well-being," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told CNN on Monday.

"And until there's a sense that people can get together, not just to fill our arenas but even our players to get together to work out, we don't know when we can come back.

"But it's something we're monitoring on a daily basis."

The NHL had asked players to self-quarantine through Wednesday, but on Tuesday that was extended through April 30.

Commissioner Bettman told CNN the NHL and the NHL Players' Association have discussed how long players would need to prepare for the resumption of the season.

"As much as you may try to stay in shape with a home gym, our guys haven't been on the ice now for a month, and they're going to need 2-3 weeks to get back into playing shape," he said.

"So as much as we may worry about keeping everybody, not just our players or the NHL family, but everybody, safe from the coronavirus, we also want to make sure that our players don't jeopardize their health by coming back too soon and not being in game shape."

Asked about playing games without fans or at neutral sites, Commissioner Bettman said the NHL had to be ready for anything, even if some scenarios ultimately turned out to be unrealistic.

"We're exploring and want to be prepared for every option whenever the circumstances present themselves," he said. "So we haven't ruled anything in, we haven't ruled anything out, and we'll be prepared to go in whatever direction makes sense at the time."

Commissioner Bettman said the call President Donald Trump held with sports leaders April 4 was very constructive.

"We all expressed a desire to get sports back," the Commissioner said. "It's something that for the psyche of the American, and in my case the Canadian, public is very important. Sports can be part of bringing people together, can be part of healing.

"But we all agreed that until it's the right time, there are other more pressing issues than when we come back, and again, everything starts with people's health and well-being."

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