NHL no longer considering ‘neutral sites,’ sources tell ESPN


FILE – In this March 12, 2020, file photo, the Capital One Arena, home of the Washington Capitals NHL hockey club, sits empty in Washington. With no games being played, recent sports headlines have centered around hopes and dreams — namely, the uncharted path leagues and teams must navigate to return to competition in the wake of the pandemic. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

Nashville, Tenn. (ESPN)- Sources tell ESPN that the NHL has turned its attention away from neutral sites and is focusing on restarting the 2019-20 season at league arenas.

Just a couple weeks ago, venues like the University of North Dakota were rumored to be under consideration for “neutral site” games in less-populated locations that weren’t as affected by the coronavirus pandemic as some NHL cities.

However, NHL sources told ESPN that the “neutral site” idea never got off the drawing board, due to problems with player accommodations, facilities for league and team staff, and the issues with bringing full broadcast crews to cover the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Now things are turning in a new direction, as the league is looking at regional NHL arenas, aligned by division, where teams could potentially finish their seasons. Sources told ESPN that the current favorites are the home rinks for the Carolina Hurricanes (Metropolitan Division), Edmonton Oilers (Pacific Division) and Minnesota Wild (Central Division). A front-runner from the Atlantic Division has yet to be decided.

The NHL is still optimistic about finishing the regular season, which had 189 games, even discussing the concept of playing multiple games throughout the day at these sites, like one would see at international tournaments.

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