The prudent answers are “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” “when it’s safe,” or even “I have no idea.” Player after player after manager after owner, even the commissioner, are non-committal, uninsightful and frankly unassuring.
We’re exploring all options but when we will have an opportunity to return depends on things we have absolutely no control over. –Gary Bettman on CNN
Enter Jonathan Marchessault and Drew Doughty.
Oh, it’s impossible that it’s over. It’s just impossible. Honestly, I don’t play 70 regular season games to not play in the playoffs. I just don’t do that. I think the NHL thinks the same, because that’s why every hockey player is playing. –Marchessault to VegasGoldenKnights.com
Honestly I don’t see how the season is going to return. We’re all kind of just sitting at home obviously hoping to return to the season or hope to watch the playoffs return. I would think the NHL or whoever would make the decision would have to make some kind of decision on that soon. And it seems like it’s going to be pretty tough to return, resume the season or playoffs. –Doughty to The Athletic
Rays of truth. Polar opposites, but truth.
The challenge the NHL is presented is illustrated inside these two quotes.
On one side you have a player whose team is sitting in 1st place in the division and has his eyes set on the Stanley Cup. On the other side, there’s a guy whose season ended long ago and his focus is on 2020-21 when he and his teammates start fresh.
Both broke stride of the hockey norm to actually spew some honesty. Publicly, there won’t be many like these two, there just aren’t enough Drew Doughtys and Jonathan Marchessaults in the world. But privately, every player, every coach, every manager, every executive, every owner, and even every fan has their truth and unfortunately, there’s not a solution to please everyone.
Each of the 31 teams sits in a different place and when the world finally allows a return to hockey, the NHL will be tasked with the impossible job of finding a solution that the fewest number of people hate.
Aside from just the competition that is sports, there are financial aspects, health issues, timing questions, and the list goes on. What works for one group may not work for another.
You have to love Marchessault’s optimism and it’s unquestionably shared by hundreds who stand in the same shoes. But Doughty’s point is also fair and hundreds more see it from that side as well.
No matter when the pandemic subsides to a point in which hockey is even a possibility, there will be a fight and an epic one. One the NHL has never faced before. There is no simple answer and there is no way to please everyone.
In the end, it’ll come down to money. In which scenario can the most people make the most money? That’s the ultimate solution the league will choose because when all is said and done, hockey is a business just like any other.
What that solution looks like? Your guess is as good as mine. But when you read or hear ideas being thrown around, take a step back from the competitive balance apsect, back off the health concerns, and don’t worry about the when or where, just follow the money. That’s where you’ll come closest to the seeing the future end to this seemingly endless nightmare.