Montreal Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher thinks there will be hockey this summer.
And that belief comes from what he knows about one of the men in charge.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters Thursday, Gallagher said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is “very motivated” when it comes to completing the 2019-20 campaign.
The league paused its season March 12 with 189 games left on the regular schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There have been rumours and reports about various scenarios for an eventual return to play, including the league centralizing each of its four divisions in separate cities, sequestering players, games without fans, and the playoffs bleeding into August and September.
Gallagher said if had to wager — and it’s only a guess — the puck will indeed be dropped sometime after Canada Day.
“A lot depends on the medical professionals,” he said. “To me, it just really feels like Gary Bettman’s going to try and do whatever he can to have hockey. He’s going to have to meet a lot of our needs as players and what we’re gonna obviously want back. But if I had to guess, I think there’ll be some form of Stanley Cup playoffs.
“They’re probably going to have to get creative with the format at this point, but if I had to guess I’d say at some point the Stanley Cup would get awarded.”
But Gallagher, who’s been on every NHL Players’ Association call since the season was halted, said it’s unlikely there will be unanimity from the league or the players on whatever decision is eventually made.
The Canadiens sat 10 points out of the playoffs with 11 games left on their schedule when the NHL halted proceedings amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, meaning if the regular season had played out as usual, Montreal would already be looking towards training camp in the fall.
“It always comes back to the same thing — it’s about winning,” said Gallagher, who’s close with Canadiens’ NHLPA representative Paul Byron. “If (playing this summer’s) gonna interfere with our ability to prepare for (2020-21) where we have a chance, I’d rather continue my training.
“If it’s a situation where you have a chance to play and they expand the playoff bracket, obviously, then I’d be all for it. Every player is going to think selfishly. For us, I’d rather be here preparing for next year and get my body ready for whatever you have to do to have a chance to win. And obviously the players that are in contention, they’re gonna want to go play no matter what.
“It’s definitely not a given that the entire league is going to be on board with one thing.”
But Gallagher — who referred to himself as a “pretty optimistic guy” — believes there’s a way forward.
“A lot of it’s outside our control,” he said. ”A lot of it is what the medical professionals say and what the scientists are saying and what the mayors, the governors are all saying, and if it’s even allowed.
“I will say this: I know Gary Bettman is very motivated to play these games … so I think there’s probably some form of solution to his problem.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2020.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press