The Boston Globe reported Friday that Boston Bruins owner and NHL Chairman Of The Board Jeremy Jacobs had let it be known to league officials that they would like to be considered as a neutral site host if and when the 2019-20 NHL season returns. On Saturday though, an NHL source told Boston Hockey Now that as of now, Boston is not even being considered as a neutral site for possibly as many as seven to eight teams to set up shop in for likely a three-week period to finish out the regular season. As of now, Boston and the state of Massachusetts are a major Coronavirus hotspot in the United States and for now, the league is focused on cities that haven’t been as affected and in the coming week could be explored logistics wise.
“Boston and Mass are just too hot right now,” the source told BHN. “Of course that can change with the virus and Jacobs could influence for sure but as of now TD Garden is a longshot at best and likely won’t be a site.”
As recently as Friday night, the state reported 196 new coronavirus deaths, bringing the total of pandemic deaths in the Bay State to 2,556. There were 2,877 new cases, and at the same time, an additional 2,096 cases were chalked up from previous days’ tallies due to a reporting error by Quest Diagnostics. In all, the state’s total confirmed cases jumped by nearly 5,000, surpassing 50,000.
“Obviously, that depends on what restrictions may be in place for the city or state,” Neely told the Globe in an email when asked to confirm the team’s interest in hosting.
On Wednesday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed numerous reports that the league and the NHLPA had indeed been brainstorming return scenarios that focused on having two-to-four NHL cities and not complete neutral sites and smaller arenas, as was previously discussed. However, Bettman stressed that the host cities cannot obviously be hot spots and must be deemed as safe as possible from another outbreak.
“Maybe it’ll be two cities,” Bettman said. “It’s not something that we can predict right at this moment. But this is part of the contingencies. It doesn’t necessarily have to be by division, although the centralization maybe by division.
“But the particular location could be anywhere that isn’t a hot spot and has what we need both in terms of the arena and having practice facilities because if you bring in seven or eight clubs to a particular facility and you’re playing lots of games on a regular basis without travel, there does need to be ice for practice.”
Earlier in the week, in a virtual town hall with season ticket holders, Neely didn’t mention Boston as a host city but he did approve of the discussed plan to salvage this season.
“It’s not a bad idea just to kind of drop-ship the teams in, keep them quarantined in hotels and bring them into games,” Neely said. “As long as everyone is taking care of themselves in that regard, I think it probably gives you a little better opportunity to finish out the regular season in that respect.”
As has been the case with many teams, Neely was not a fan of having the NHL Entry Draft before the regular season and Stanley Cup playoffs were completed.
“A lot of trades happened at the deadline that were contingent on what happens with that team in the playoffs or that player in the playoffs,” Neely said. “It could affect your draft choice. A lot of things have to be worked out to have the draft prior to finding out who the Stanley Cup champion is. It could affect some transactions that have already taken place.”