Should the National Hockey League decide – in conjunction with its players union – to restart operations after COVID-19 forced a leaguewide pause in mid-March, the Blue Jackets and city of Columbus may be busy.
Earlier this week, The Athletic listed Columbus as one potential host city for a cluster of teams (possibly the Metropolitan Division) and on Saturday afternoon, Larry Brooks of the New York Post expanded on that report.
Brooks writes that Columbus is a "strong contender" to be among what's believed to be four markets targeted by the NHL. In such a scenario (granted, it's still early and nothing has been decided), multiple teams would call one city their home base.
The city of Columbus has multiple factors working in its favor, including ample dressing rooms and support facilities, practice rinks, hotel rooms, and a state that has done its part to flatten the coronavirus curve and have hope that its economy may soon re-open.
Slap Shots has learned a Return to Play Committee established by the league and the union has conducted a pair of conference calls over the past three days with regularly scheduled “meetings” to follow.
Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, and senior VPs Colin Campbell and Steve Hatze Petros represent the NHL, while the NHLPA is represented by Don Fehr, Mathieu Schneider, general counsel Don Zavelo, divisional rep Steve Webb, and active players John Tavares, Connor McDavid, James van Riemsdyk and Ron Hainsey. Medical advisers from both the league and union are added to the calls when appropriate.
Any decision made by the NHL's committee would ultimately need approval from Ohio governor Mike DeWine, who recently shared a plan that reopens businesses across the state beginning May 1.
While it sounds as though the league and players union are discussing a plan to possibly return to game play at some point this summer, there's a lot left to sort through before anything becomes official. Players who have returned home overseas will need clearance to return, there may be a quarantine period for some, and government and health officials will need to give the green light for hockey to resume.
Nonetheless, the discussion itself is an encouraging step in the process.