- Emily Kaplan is ESPN’s national NHL reporter.
- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr on Saturday said he has not yet had any discussions with the NHL about specific neutral-site locations for a potential Stanley Cup playoffs this summer.
“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.”
The NHL is getting pitches from venues and cities across North America to be potential hosts, though deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN last week that the league hasn’t narrowed down the list yet. The governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, told WEEI on Friday that he’s had talks with the NHL and said playing the rest of the season in Manchester, New Hampshire, is “on the table.”
Fehr said the NHLPA is aware of the ethical concerns of staging an NHL event in a rural area where there are no stay-at-home orders.
“Obviously, it would seem to me that the governors or the prime ministers of any such locations, for them to be interested, would have first and foremost in their mind the health and safety of their own residents,” Fehr said.
Fehr said any decision about the future of the 2019-20 regular season and Stanley Cup playoffs is tied to an easing of restrictions on travel, essential business and mass gatherings. Given the inconsistency of the guidelines on those issues — where even neighboring states have two different standards — Fehr said a “green light” to restart the season will come from “some combination” of local and federal government guidance.
“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.”
Then there’s the border issue. Many European-born players have returned to their home countries, but Fehr sounded confident that the league would be able to assist in bringing them back to North America this summer, if necessary.
“We obviously have our own resources, our own lawyers in both countries — the U.S. and Canada,” Fehr said. “The NHL obviously has its own people, and as you know, employers ordinarily have the primary responsibility for visas and exit and entry of people that have work permits and so on. So we’ll do that.”
But Fehr noted that “it’s going to be very difficult to do anything” if borders between the U.S. and Canada remain closed.
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