NHL pushes back timeline on potential resumption of season

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THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS

Crews cover the ice at American Airlines Center in Dallas, home of the Dallas Stars hockey team, after the NHL season was put on hold due to coronavirus, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

Don't count on hockey being played any time soon.

The NHL significantly pushed back its timeline of when it can potentially resume playing by several weeks, if not a month or more, as a result of the new coronavirus pandemic.

The league and NHL Players' Association told players Monday they can go home — even outside of North America — and must self-isolate through March 27 while the season is on hold. But the NHL also cautioned that it will not be able to even provide guidance on the potential reopening of team practices for another 45 days, which could push any potential return to play into May.

The new directives come on the heels of the CDC's recommendation against gatherings of 50 or more people in the U.S. for the next eight weeks. The NHL said “depending on world developments," consideration will be given to reopening facilities after the self-quarantine period ends in late March but practices for the 31 teams would not happen late April — at the earliest.

“I think in light of the CDC recommendations, it's hard to foresee that we're looking at much happening here in March or even April, in my opinion,” NHL player agent Jay Grossman said.

That's a major switch from Friday, when the league held out the possibility of players being able to return to team facilities and working out and skating in small groups.

The latest decision leaves open questions as to whether the NHL can complete its regular season, which was suspended Thursday with 189 games remaining, and whether it might have to alter its playoff format to avoid the postseason from pushing into the summer months.

Last week, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said he remained optimistic about resuming play and still awarding the Stanley Cup, which has been handed out every year since 1893 except for 1919 because of the Spanish flu outbreak, and 2005 when a lockout wiped out the entire season.