The NHL continues to consider options to finish this season, with the selection of multiple “hub” cities appearing to offer the most likely path to accomplish that.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said Monday the league is considering “probably eight or nine different places” that could accommodate “a dozen or so teams in one location,” according to nhl.com, which quoted his remarks during a digital interview with Leaders Week, a sports business conference.

The “hub” concept would place teams in an NHL city to play, practice and isolate. Bettman has mentioned two or four hubs as a possibility, though that number could grow, and said NHL facilities would be required to properly and safely stage multiple games per day. It’s likely games would be played without fans in attendance, at least initially, and local safety mandates would be observed by all involved.

The chance of finishing the regular season has grown more remote as the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended. Bettman has said he’s willing to have the 2019-20 season run through the summer in order to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup. A 24-team playoff is one option, possibly with best-of-seven series being shortened to best-of-five for the early rounds.

“I don’t think anybody has a fixed timetable, particularly in North America right now,” Bettman said. “We have been working very hard since we took the pause on March 12 to make sure that whatever the timing is, whatever the sequencing is, whatever physical ability we have in terms of locations to play, that we’re in a position to execute any or all of those options. There is still a great deal of uncertainty.”

According to nhl.com, Bettman acknowledged the league would have to resolve border passage and quarantine requirements that vary from state to state and from country to country. He also said the league would need the ability to administer coronavirus tests, adding, “We certainly can’t be jumping the line in front of medical needs …

“I believe that all of the major sports in North America are going through this same exercise and while the medical and health issues are probably to some extent the same for all of us, the logistics of what we do and how we do it may be a little different depending on the sport.”

VETERAN NEW JERSEY Devils goaltender Cory Schneider said that a growing number of players are concerned the NHL will announce a “drop-dead” deadline for returning to play as the coronavirus pandemic lingers with summer coming up fast.

The 34-year-old Schneider said some Devils are apprehensive because the NHL has said it would take three weeks of training before allowing games. That would take any restart into June.

“I think that’s everyone’s concern right now,” said Schneider, the team’s union representative. “It’s a lot of guys asking is there a drop-dead date? What’s the date that it’s just too late, that you can get a semblance of a season or a playoff.”

A late restart has the potential to cause a delay in the start of the 2020-21 schedule. Schneider said it doesn’t make sense to restart the season if the hiatus goes into June and July. The Stanley Cup is typically awarded in early to mid-June.

The NHL paused the season on March 12. League spokesman John Dellapina said last week officials are not publicly discussing any deadlines.

“We are following the guidance of medical experts and government authorities regarding when we can open club facilities,” he said.

The NBA, which stopped its season just before the NHL, cleared the way to open team practice facilities for individual voluntary workouts beginning May 8. The NFL is allowing teams to open their club headquarters to a limited number of personnel starting Tuesday. Both leagues have required state approval for such moves.

The Devils have a 28-29-12 record and 68 points, last in the Metropolitan Division. Schneider said he wants to play but is concerned about returning for six or seven meaningless games. Players would have to isolate themselves but still increase their risk to possible infection – and injuries.

“Is it worth it for us to spend five, six weeks to do something that ultimately won’t matter?” Schneider asked. “Personally, I would like to at least get out and get that feeling again. Nine or 10 months is a long time to not have played a game and not really ramp it up in that sense. My hope is that we get a chance to come back and play.”

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