Bettman: NHL has to be ready to adapt and adjust as league prepares to open season

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the league has to be ready to adjust and adapt as it prepares to launch its abbreviated 56-game season during the second wave of a global pandemic.

In a conference call with reporters Monday, Bettman said the league has good health and safety protocols in place to try to limit the spread of COVID-19 among players and team staff during the upcoming season.

But he acknowledged that keeping the novel coronavirus at bay will be more of a challenge this season, with teams playing at their home arenas and travelling to other cities for away dates, than during the restart of the 2019-20 season in controlled "bubble" environments in Edmonton and Toronto.

While Bettman said it quickly became clear the hub cities would be safe for last year's post-season, he said the idea of sending players back into a "bubble" for a six-month season was something he "couldn't even ask."

The next NHL season is set to begin Wednesday, but the league has already had to make adjustments due to the coronavirus.

The Dallas Stars have had to postpone their season opener this week because six players and two staff members tested positive, while the Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins and Vancouver Canucks have either held players out of practice or cancelled scheduled team activities due to potential exposure to the virus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 11, 2021.

The Canadian Press