With almost 60 years in the NHL, legendary coach Scotty Bowman has seen how much the league has grown as a business and that’s exactly why he’s hoping for the NHL to return but worried about what could happen if they do so too soon.
“The big concern – actually you got many concerns present and looking ahead to next year – hockey and other sports have changed so much that the business of hockey has become huge,” Bowman pointed out in Part 2 of a two-part interview on the Bruins Craic podcast. “I mean, I’ve been looking at revenue streams, maybe 15, 20 years ago and they’re not only doubled and tripled, they’re quadrupled. There’s so much downturn now in finances that I know what they’re getting at. There’s teams, I don’t know who they are, I’m not privy to that, but the fact is that they gotta be careful on the health issue. That’s the one issue I’m not sure on.”
On Tuesday night, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told San Jose Sharks season ticket holders in a virtual Town Hall that he hasn’t even considered canceling the 2020-21 NHL season.
“Not something I’m even contemplating,” the Commissioner said. “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. I don’t want to sound Pollyanna, but canceling 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.”
Over the last few days, the NHL Return To Play Committee has accelerated the process of getting the league into phase 2 of their plan to return to the ice this summer. Bowman is hoping things aren’t going to fast though. The 14-time Stanley Cup champion and hall of famer is currently hunkered down in Sarasota, Florida, and has watched the local economy there and around Florida open back up pretty fast in recent weeks. Bowman is really hoping that both the NHL and NHLPA can be on the same page when it comes to returning to the ice and make not just the best decision economically but more importantly safety-wise.
“When you don’t know the future, it always makes for real questions,” Bowman said. “What I hope is for whatever decision is reached – and maybe they can’t do it – I’m really concerned with the fact that we don’t know a month from now, we probably don’t even know a week from now, that if they do come back – and I know all the parameters in the NHL – there are enough people with the ownership that with everything else, it’s not a straw vote. It’s gotta be the right decision.”
As Bowman pointed out, it will be no easy task to get all parties involved on the same page and salvage the 2019-20 season.
“The players are partners now,” Bowman said. “Not as much as some businesses but they’re partners and you’re talking about 700-plus players and 31 teams that are owned by different people and multiple people. So I would say they have to be very careful and I think what they’re doing now – and there’s so many scenarios – but one issue with hockey is it’s so international. One-third of our players come from Europe; we have another country in Canada that has six teams – very big teams that do well because hockey’s a big game still in Canada – they gotta really make sure that this thing is done right but thankfully they got time to plan it.”
Another major issue and in the opinion of Bowman, the most important one, will be accurate and timely testing.
“The testing issue is going to be the most important issue,” Bowman said. “You cannot wait three or four days for a test or deal with what we’ve gone through for the last 50 days or so. I would just have to trust the people that are going to make these decisions are sensible enough to make sure everybody is on the same page and that health is going to be a big factor.”
Click here for more Bowman on the Bruins Craic.