The NHL and NHL Players Association this week issued a joint statement on Wednesday night saying they are hopeful that they are moving toward an opportunity to return to rinks for practice and potentially resume the 2019-20 season.
In part, the statement said, "Provided that conditions continue to trend favorably -- and, subject to potential competitive concerns as between disparately situated markets -- we believe we may be able to move to Phase 2 at some point in the mid-to-later portion of May."
Stars general manager Jim Nill has been gathering information, and answered a few questions for DallasStars.com on what he sees going forward with the team:
Did you learn anything from the NHL and NHLPA this week that will help you going forward?
I think there was more optimism, and I think that's good. There is a positive feeling right now that we might be trending in the right direction. Does that mean that down the road we can open up our training facility for one or two guys -- or five or 10 guys -- to start working out? We'll get direction on that later, but it seems that's the way things are heading.
How important is that for hockey? It seems the players have to be on the ice to start really getting back into shape.
I think the first stage is getting in regular workouts, getting on the ice and getting their sea legs. The one challenging part is that while it would possible for us to open up in Texas, what about other towns? That's something the league is going to have to decide. Are our guys allowed to work out if guys on other teams can't? There's a lot of discussion we still have to go through in terms of what's fair for the integrity of the game.
How do you prepare as a GM? Do you have to talk about getting players back to North Texas at some point?
For now, we're just telling them to remain where they are, but to be prepared. We have eight to 10 guys still in Dallas, another eight to 10 guys in Europe. And then another five or six have gone to different places in North America. I've kept in touch with all of them, and for right now, we're telling them to just keep doing what you're doing. Once a plan is in place, we'll have a couple of weeks to get guys back. So we're just staying patient. Is it the end of May or early June when we can get people back into our facilities? We'll wait and see.
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Is it doable to get players back from Europe in a timely fashion?
I think it will be manageable. The big thing is when they do come back, they will probably have to go through quarantine for two weeks. And then where will we be with the testing? The whole thing with this is once we get up to speed with testing, that will take us a long way in knowing where we stand. There are a lot of variables and we're just trying to get as much information as we can.
Have you gone through any hypotheticals in terms of what it would look like? You have a lot of rinks here, can you use them all?
We're in a good position with all of the StarCenters. That's going to help us as we try to get back to playing.
What do you see as far as what you might need in coming back? Is it a group of 23, a group of 30?
That's all to be determined by the league. There are so many moving parts. It's the same with free agency, the draft, just everything. We're having discussions and we'll have to adjust to what the medical community says we can do.
How challenging is it going to be for contracts?
It's the same for everyone, so we all have to adjust. The league has made it clear they want to finish the 2019-2020 season, so then that could determine how we go forward with contracts, with free agency, with the draft. When does the 20-21 season start? When will arenas be open to fans? There's a lot of things we're talking about. Plus there are so many bigger issues out there that are affecting society, so we need to be respectful of everything when we're making our decisions.
You are at home with your wife, Bekki, who is battling cancer. How has all of this affected your family?
My wife is immune suppressed, she's a cancer patient, and she's at a high risk. We've got two grandchildren who live down here in our area and that's been a challenge. There are no hugs or high fives. It is different for us. We have to respect the rules for my wife's health. That's the thing, this is bigger than hockey and we have to respect that. Hopefully, when we get through this, then our job can be to help get people's spirits up.
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Do you have discussion about what the team might be able to do in the playoffs? Are they helped by a break or hurt by a break?
It's like everything else, you just don't know. This is all brand new to everyone. I think we have a team that has a good mix of veterans and younger players. So you get the experience of a Joe Pavelski or Corey Perry, and you still have the speed of a Roope Hintz or Denis Gurianov. It's so hard to predict, because the pressure of the playoffs is so intense. That's where the experience pushes you over the top and you need players like Pavelski or Perry or (Roman) Polak or (Andrej) Sekera. We're a team sport, and it's a fine line between what kind of team you need to be to get into the playoffs and then what kind of team you need to be to succeed in the playoffs. So you have to go out there and find that.
Do you think about the fact you have an interim head coach right now in Rick Bowness or how you want to go forward with your coaching staff?
We're going to finish the season with our coaching staff. They've earned that. We've had a top 10 team for most of the season, we're on pace for 100 points. They've done a great job under difficult circumstances, and they need to finish the season. Then, once the season and the playoffs are over, we can start making decisions on that, on players, in a lot of areas.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.