The NBA reportedly has considered moving its entire postseason to Las Vegas in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. Major League Baseball has floated playing regular-season games exclusively in Arizona for what could be several months. And the NHL — well, the NHL is looking to North Dakota.
The Canadian outlet Sportsnet reported that the NHL and NHLPA are “spitballing” scenarios for how, when and where professional hockey can return. One idea involves basing everyone in North Dakota, which is relatively isolated and not densely populated, to play a tournament-esque Stanley Cup Playoffs with an undetermined number of teams.
Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson considered the idea “a longshot” during a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
“I think it seems like a longshot, but I think that any option is a good option at this point with all the uncertainty going around,” Carlson said. “I think it would be cool. We’ve all been away from each other for a while now and it would be nice to have the abbreviated training camp and maybe play as many games as we need to at something like that. That would kick-start everyone back into gear and get ready for the rest of the season and the playoffs.”
The University of North Dakota’s ice hockey arena in Grand Forks could work for hosting NHL games in this climate. It’s a large enough building, with a capacity of 11,640 — although no fans would be allowed to attend under this supposed plan.
T.J. Oshie might be on board with playing playoff games in the Peace Garden State: He played at the University of North Dakota before entering the NHL.
Carlson believes there would need to be some “abbreviated” conclusion to the regular season when hockey returns, partly so that teams that will miss the playoffs won’t have their season end prematurely, but also so playoff teams could get warmed up to hockey before it becomes do-or-die.
“At the same time, as a player, we’re in a playoff position, (and) I don’t think you would want your first game to be Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs,” Carlson said. “How do I see it playing out? If I had to guess, maybe we would maybe do half of the remaining games in the regular season, but that’s all for up for debate and depends on the timeline and what we’re able to fit in, if at all.”
For now, Carlson said he doesn’t want to become “too optimistic” that the NHL will come back quickly. He understands there is no guarantee the regular season will even be completed.
“I think I just try to leave it out of my hands,” he said. “There’s nothing that I can say or read or watch that’s going to change the outcome of anything. So, it’s good to be informed, but it’s also I’m not going to get in the way of myself in thinking things that … aren’t realistic.”