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Bettman exploring every option — except cancelling 2020 season

The commissioner sees cancellation as “too easy a solution.”

ST LOUIS, MISSOURI - JANUARY 24: Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media prior to the 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Enterprise Center on January 24, 2020 in St Louis, Missouri. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

On Monday morning, the AHL announced that the remainder of the 2019-20 season, as well as playoffs, would be cancelled. The next day, as a guest in a virtual town hall hosted by the San Jose Sharks and reported by the Mercury News, NHL league commissioner Gary Bettman said that wasn’t an option the NHL was considering.

“I believe that if the right time comes, and the right circumstances, based on all of the options that we’re considering and our ability to execute them, we’ll get this season done,” Bettman said. “I don’t want to sound Pollyanna, but cancelling is too easy a solution. That means you stop working hard to do all of the things that we’re doing, and I ultimately believe that there will be an opportunity.”

I’d like to push back a bit on the idea that cancelling is the easy solution. Easiest, maybe, if only for the fact that the actual execution of the plan doesn’t involve navigating travel and housing hundreds of people during a global pandemic, sure.

And it’s also true that for a league like the AHL (and to a smaller extent, the ECHL, who also cancelled their season in March), who doesn’t have a draft or television deals influencing the decision-making nor the financial ability to support returning, cancelling is probably the easiest solution.

But the questions about the future don’t just end because the season gets scrapped. That’s a decision that’s going to have consequences.

It seems strange that up to this point, Bettman and Bill Daly have been exploring every scenario under which the NHL could return, in order to be prepared and get things up and running quickly. But when it comes to the possibility of cancelling, Bettman says that’s “not something I’m even contemplating.”

Carrying on with the season is a huge undertaking and cancelling is the worst-case scenario. Bettman’s comments make that clear.

Not even like, one guy is planning for the chance they might have to, though?

I guess it comes down to how badly the NHL wants to finish out the rest of the season, whether or not it’s worth considering. Come hell or high water, there’s going to be a Cup Champion, because god forbid there isn’t one due to a pandemic or, I don’t know, a labor dispute.

“We would like to bring a conclusion to this season,” Bettman said. “It’s got to be fair, it’s got to have integrity, and if we have to do it over the summer on some modified basis, then we’ll do it on that basis.”

Nothing says integrity like a modified playoff structure with no fans after months off in exactly four cities, who may or may not be competing themselves.