NHL Phase 4 Details With Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, Dr. Willem (Winne) Meeuwisse, Steve Mayer, Colin Campbell, Kris King and Stephen Walkom
GARY BETTMAN: Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining us today. I hope most of you have had an opportunity to look at the video of yesterday’s presentation, and before we take questions, I just want to make a couple of remarks.
This entire process has had us focus on and about to embark upon one of the most unique and challenging endeavors any of us have ever been involved with. And first and foremost, and you’ve heard us say this all over again, health and safety is driving all of our decisions and all of our attention and focus. That is the primary aspect of what we have to accomplish over the next couple of months.
It’s not a coincidence that the HUB cities are Toronto and Edmonton because of our focus on health and safety and where COVID-19 is and isn’t.
To give you a sense of the magnitude of what we’re embarking upon, there are already on the ground combined in Toronto and Edmonton 150 NHL league office employees, and at last count, there were well over 1,000 people combined in both cities working on every detail necessary to make the HUB, the bubble, whatever you want to call it, what it needs to be.
And again, that goes back to protecting the health and well-being of our players and all of the other personnel involved in returning to play so that we can conclude the ’19-‘ 20 season.
With that, we’re all here to take your questions, and we wish everyone health, well-being, safety, and good luck as we embark on this journey.
JOHN DELLAPINA: Thank you, Commissioner.
Q. Hello, gentlemen, and thank you for doing this today. My question is for Steve Mayer. I wanted to know how the repairs are coming along at the arena in Edmonton after the storm incident last week and if that’ll all be set to go when the time comes.
STEVE MAYER: So we had a bit of a scare for sure, but there are no issues at all. Everything has been repaired. The control room that had some significant damage has — all the equipment that was damaged has been replaced.
We’ve turned on the ribbon boards, the scoreboards. All of our data, all back to normal, no problems at all. And the crew here in Edmonton, Oilers Entertainment Group, has done a magnificent job in getting us back up and running, and there are no issues at all.
Q. A question for Stephen Walkom. How does life change for the officials during this COVID-19 restart, and in particular I thought there was a report recently about digital whistles being used in some sports during their restarts given all the concerns about health and safety. How does life change, if at all, for the officials on the ice?
STEPHEN WALKOM: I think first and foremost, all the testing and quarantining that the officials did prior to coming in to the HUB cities, getting them here safely, and then once they’re in the HUB cities testing them again and getting them ready for the restart, I’m happy to say that all the tests came in in a negative fashion. Our guys will be hitting the ice today.
Normally they don’t get together in the Playoffs other than with the people they work with, so it’s a bit of a luxury that we have 20 officials in each HUB from a team perspective. That’s a little different for them.
In terms of working games, they’re excited to hit the ice for a mini-camp in the next couple of days where they’re going to be on the ice, in the classroom, and then back on the ice prior to exhibition games. So that’s a little different for them.
When it comes to living in a HUB, we did go through lots of Zoom calls and rule quizzes and such leading up to this. One of the topics that we covered was being isolated, living in a HUB, what was it going to be like, and each of the officials got to talk about it a little bit so that when they got here, there was really no surprises for them.
Events has done a great job of making sure that the hotel is set up for them. Hockey ops has done a great job of setting up the rink to make sure that it’s ready for them. And your last question on whistles, we did take a look at the electronic whistle. One of the things that we will be trying is a Fox 40 pealess whistle, which we believe has the right trill for the players, and as well it takes a lot less force to use.
We’re going to be using that today on the ice and giving that a go, but we’re not — the officials didn’t really want to use the electronic whistle. It hasn’t been tested enough for us. But we are moving towards the pealess whistle. So I hope that answers your question. I know the guys are excited to get to work in each one of the HUBs and the games ahead.
Q. I have a question for either Gary or Bill, whoever wants to field this one. I know the NBA has done kind of a two-tiered media setup where they have single-tier with some people that have a little access inside the bubble. All you guys opted not to do that. I’m curious what the concerns were and also what benefits you guys might see to that, whether it’s transparency or increased exposure, and then what detriments ultimately led you not to do that, whether it’s increased cost or health concerns. Just kind of inside that decision-making process, please.
BILL DALY: Our paramount priority from the start here has been health and safety. We’ve taken the advice of our medical experts, and the bottom line is, and Winne says it all the time, and he can chime in to the extent that he wants: Increased numbers, increased risk.
So we have taken a position with respect to every part of our return-to-play plan to minimize numbers and keep it to essentially personnel only and not to overdo or overburden the system.
We have faith in our bubble. We have faith in the strength of the perimeter of our bubble. But any added people that are non-essential or unnecessary just adds to the level of risk that we’re already undertaking.
Q. This question I believe would be for Kris. Kris, I’m wondering if you could just elaborate on the dressing room rotation a little bit. I know people are wondering, so the Oilers are going to use their own dressing room, but not all the time. Will there sort of be a set rotation, home teams in certain rooms and things like that? I just wonder how that’s going to play out and the rooms the Oilers might move through.
KRIS KING: The schedule was built once we received the game schedule and the times. As you know, especially in the early going with three games a day, there is an early game, a middle day game, and a night game. The movement of these teams and players really depicted who was going to be in what room and at what time.
Your question in and about the Oilers is they are home, they have home ice advantage in their first round, and will be in their locker room for Game 1.
Ironically enough playing Chicago, they will be the home team for Game 3 and be in the Oilers’ room as the home team for that game.
With teams moving in and out and games on different days, it really is dependent on the schedule and where the teams are and where they’re coming from for movements is what is decided.
We also in Edmonton, because of potential back-to-back games, and there are some scheduled, historically the home bench when you watch the Oilers game may not necessarily be the home bench, and it’s similar to what we did in the World Cup. And the referees will know who is the home team that day, but they may be actually on the visitor’s bench and be the home team.
So it is all based on schedule and game times and who is necessarily the home team in that schedule.
Q. I’m addressing this question to Bill Daly. I wanted to know if you guys still planned on rolling out the Puck and Player Tracking Technology for the upcoming Playoffs.
BILL DALY: So obviously, as you know, we had intended to use the player and puck tracking technology throughout the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that was before obviously we had to hit the pause button on March 12th.
We do not intend to use that technology, at least through the first two rounds of the Playoffs.
We are, however, considering the use of the technology in the conference final and the final, and we are committed to having that technology available to us on a full-time basis starting next regular season.
Q. I know you had to make a choice between Edmonton and Toronto for the final four or the conference finals and the Stanley Cup. What put Edmonton over the edge over Toronto?
GARY BETTMAN: I think mostly logistics and the amount of room that we would have in the back of the house of the respective buildings. Both buildings are great. Both cities are great. Both HUBs are going to be certainly much, much more than adequate. They’re going to be terrific.
But we just felt in terms of the needs for the Stanley Cup Final, we would be more comfortable with the resources available to us in the Edmonton building.
Steve, do you want to add to that?
STEVE MAYER: I would agree. At the time we had to make the decision, hotel availabilities, knowing the HUBs that we were about to set up, we felt that Edmonton would be the better choice. And, again, it was an extremely difficult choice, but the better choice to host the conference final and the final.
Q. Steve, the NBA has done the Black Lives Matter on the court; Major League Baseball did that. Do you have any plans for Black Lives Matter either for individual players or on the ice itself?
STEVE MAYER: So I think we touched on in our presentation how we’re going to open up in both HUBs with a significant and a powerful opening evening. I think we’ll provide more details as the week goes on, but there will be moments within that where we’ll obviously honor what happened on the front line with those who worked so hard during the pandemic, but also we will certainly look at social justice as part of this opening, and Black Lives Matter will be a part of that.
I think as we pointed out, we’ll see how our players react naturally to what we will present opening night, but there will be some moments within the opening night ceremony that will touch on Black Lives Matter and social justice.
I think more to come on that, but it is significant that of course we’re talking about incorporating.
Q. My question is for Dr. Meeuwisse. The plan is very good and you guys put tons and tons of hours to plan it. What is your biggest concern? Is one case too many? What will you be looking for? What will be the most important thing to follow when the players will get into the bubbles?
WINNE MEEUWISSE: Well, thank you for that question. Yeah, there was extensive planning that went into this program with a number of different experts, and a lot of the work that we’ve done has actually been with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the provincial governments, and the local health authorities, and we’re going to continue working with them as we watch this unfold.
Obviously we’re hoping that once we move into the bubble environment, it’s constructed in a way, and we’ve designed it to be constructed in a way that does two things: It protects the public in the first instance, and then it protects the people inside the bubble in the second case.
We don’t expect it to be perfect. We expect with the number of people that we’re going to have some positive tests, and we have a method and a process designed in advance to deal with that. And we’ll continue to consult with the local health authorities as that unfolds.
Q. Steve, number one, are players from different teams encouraged to hang out with each other during downtime, or is that kind of frowned upon? And number two, what’s the status of off-site social excursions for players?
STEVE MAYER: So to answer the first question, we’re finding from our players, this is the Stanley Cup Playoffs and they are competing for the Stanley Cup, and it’s their interest to be separated. The team lounges, the player meeting rooms, the player meal rooms, of course are team by team.
I think there are going to be certain areas where, let’s call them common areas. For the first five days we’ve put a very, very stringent tone for the fact that they have to be separated, both in restaurants and everywhere. But we really have felt that the players’ feedback is their interest to be separated throughout, and we’ll see how that evolves as the tournament moves on.
The second question, we obviously have been working extremely closely with both Alberta health officials and Ontario health officials about what we can do inside and outside the bubble. We will honor both of their interests, and one might be a bit different than others.
There are plans in Edmonton after 14 days and after we’ve served our quarantine to potentially look at opportunities outside for excursions. Those are plans that will come down the line. We’ll also get a sense of timing in terms of if our teams are even interested.
But yes, excursions in Edmonton will be in the plans; where we are right now is going to be to honor the Ontario health officials who are telling us that they really would like us to stay in the bubble, stay protected. And again, as all of this evolves, we’ll keep on having those conversations with both health officials in Alberta and Ontario, and we’ll see how excursions come into play.
Q. This question is for Steve. In terms of virtual advertising, I watched your guys’ video last night and didn’t see any mention of it. Will you have virtual ads on the ice? And if not, what was the decision behind not doing that?
STEVE MAYER: So virtual is really at this point not a piece of our overall design, but we do, of course, have eight LED screens and monitors that will allow us to do some things that are extremely similar to virtual.
The RSNs will also have the opportunity to do virtual signage on the glass, and they’ll take advantage of that in the early rounds.
We’re looking at our environment in some ways as virtual, but we also, as we’ve talked about, are looking to grow this and be fluid, and there are possibilities as we get in later rounds to add a virtual component to the environment for the conference final and the final.
Q. Steve, my question is specifically regarding the television product, and perhaps maybe the commissioner would like to comment on this, as well, since I know that’s an important thing for him. Thank you for the breakdown of the specifics in the presentation. I guess what are your goals for what the television product will look like? And I guess specifically what I mean is it’s easy to get caught up in what you guys are losing in this environment in terms of fans in the stands and everything, but what do you feel you’re actually gaining from a storytelling environment? What are you capable of doing in this environment that maybe you normally wouldn’t have been able to do under standard circumstances?
STEVE MAYER: Well, I’ll start. We mentioned this yesterday. There are no fans, and many times the considerations of where cameras go in arenas are based on where our fans are. We don’t want to block our fans from the viewing experience. We have no fans here, so we are able to walk around an arena like this and find the perfect, most ideal positions for every single one of our cameras.
You know, it is our goal to be able to show a hockey game in a manner that shows off the speed and you feel like you’re part of the game, that you’re watching with the energy that sometimes doesn’t come — yes, it comes from the fans, but sometimes it doesn’t come from the play on the ice.
We’ve all heard that our game — we all want it to translate better for television. We think that in this tournament we’re going to be able to accomplish that even greater because of the way we can bring our fans right inside the game, down low, show the speed, hear the sounds, and then the energy of the set design and some of the things that we’re planning on doing will make it visually exciting, as well.
Listen, as you can hear, I’m super excited about the broadcasts and being able to do some different things throughout the whole tournament and giving our fans an amazing experience if they can’t be here at home.
GARY BETTMAN: Just to add to that, I think we’re using about a dozen more cameras than we do in a typical national broadcast, and that will fit very nicely into what Steve is describing.
Obviously there will be more sounds of the game because you’ll hear more of what’s taking place on the ice without the crowd noise. And in terms of set design and what the arena is going to look like from a broadcast standpoint, if you see and recall what we do at all our outdoor games and our other events, Steve and his group are extraordinarily creative. We think this will make for a compelling television product, and while there’s nothing better in person from a sporting standpoint than an NHL game and the energy, the noise, the excitement of our crowds, may be irreplaceable from that standpoint; this is going to be made into a very entertaining and compelling experience.
Q. This question is for the doctor. I know you have put a tremendous amount of time as a group into making sure this is as safe as possible for the players, and this question is not to suggest that anybody is not safe. I just want to understand the process of what position the players may need to make a decision about heading into. If a positive test happens on a team one day and they identify close contacts of that positive test, and those close contacts have a game to play, do players potentially have to give their informed consent to get on the ice with people who have been identified as close contacts of a positive case? Because as we know, outside the bubble close contacts generally have to self-isolate. So there’s that little bit of a difference there, and just understanding that decision the players make in that moment about getting on the ice against opponents that are potentially close contacts.
WINNE MEEUWISSE: Yeah, thank you for that question. There’s a lot of thought that’s gone into this question of what do we do with a positive test and what is the exposure to other people within the bubble environment. Obviously some of it unique. We’ve had a lot of discussion with the health authority and landed on a strategy that’s quite similar to healthcare workers where you assume that there’s a degree of exposure.
In the healthcare setting there’s a number of protective measures that can be taken like we’re taking in the bubble. The one thing we cannot do with players is put masks on them when they play, but we’re mitigating that risk by doing testing on a daily basis.
We still will do contact tracing because there’s degrees of exposure, and if we feel a degree of exposure is unusually high, they still may be quarantined. But at the end of the day this is a protocol that has a lot of involvement and input and signoff from the Players’ Association, so as a group the players are comfortable with it.
And I think it will continue to be the case that if players are quite uncomfortable, that they have the option not to participate.
Q. This is also a question for Dr. Meeuwisse. Bill said that a mantra for you guys is increased number is increased risk, and you are inviting family members to come join players in the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final round. I’m just curious how concerned are you about that, and what will the process be to integrate them into the bubble?
WINNE MEEUWISSE: Well, maybe I’ll let others comment on the degree to which families would be involved. What I can say is that we have, as part of the protocol, a fairly strict procedure for anybody entering the bubble, and it includes — to me, probably the most important thing in terms of what they’re doing around their exposure before they travel or before they enter the bubble to really shelter in place and not have exposure in the two weeks leading into any entry into the bubble.
And then once they do, we have varying degrees of quarantine that have to be served based on the type of exposure they’ve had, based on the type of travel that they’ve had to get to the bubble. And we have an event medical director in both Toronto and Edmonton that have the discretion to impose additional quarantine on people that they feel might be a risk, because if you look at the nature of this enterprise and what’s involved in doing it, we don’t want to have a situation where we’re going to be introducing potential infection from the outside as this tournament continues on.
GARY BETTMAN: The presence or not of families is still a work in progress. It’s something that the health authorities in Alberta, among others, will have to bless. We will take our cues from the medical people, both on behalf of the league and the Players’ Association.
And remember, by the time we get to the conference final, assuming we’re able to make an accommodation for families and perhaps some others, our numbers will be dramatically reduced from where we’re going to find ourselves this Sunday when 24 teams are converging on the two HUBs.
So it’s still very much something that has to be worked on.
BILL DALY: I’ll only add that obviously the family provision isn’t a provision of either of our protocols. It was a provision that we negotiated with the Players’ Association separately. It was part of the return-to-play plan, and as you might imagine, it’s something that the players felt very, very strongly about, and we certainly were sensitive to. That’s why we included it.
Q. I’m just curious about the fact that a lot of practices are taking place off-site from the regular arena and they’re in public spaces, especially in Edmonton. There’s a pool there, a gym, et cetera. I’m just wondering what kind of complications go into trying to arrange that, and also from a health and safety perspective how you plan to make that as safe as possible.
KRIS KING: Al, I can answer that. In Edmonton, the actual four-pad Terwilliger portion is completely cordoned off for our use and our use only, with the actual entrances for the teams that are using those rinks being different. We put a lot of thought into how we move in and out of that facility. Knowing that we would be the only tenants using that portion of the facility, we’re quite comfortable that we will be separated from the public that uses other parts of that complex.
In Toronto, for example, Ford Performance Center, we are the only people that will be using that entire complex. So from a public standpoint, there will be nobody else but the people within the bubble in and out of both those environments.
So we’re quite comfortable with how we are keeping ourselves separated from the public in both markets.
BILL DALY: I’d only add that that is something that we’ve been very diligent on from the start, from the opening of phase 2 for club facilities, for small group activities, through phase 3, is a clear and demarcated separation from the public where there’s no interaction at all and no exposure, both for the safety and benefit of our players but also the public.
Q. A more basic question about the surface and the field of play and what you guys are going to be playing on, the challenges. Is it easier without the crowd to maintain the standards that you aspire to? You guys obviously have a lot of experience making ice outdoors, but this is going to be a little unique in August in Toronto and Edmonton.
COLIN CAMPBELL: Yeah, we’ve had that concern originally expressed by the players, and our challenges in the past have been with ice, particularly this time of year. May, June, July, August have been the heat, and the real problem is when the doors open in any facility and the fans are in the building — and basically also the body heat of the fans. We have no issues, no concerns about the ice conditions, and we’ve talked with our ice guys in depth about this.
Obviously it’s a question a lot of people have asked already, so there’s no concerns there at all. Kris, I don’t know if you’re dealing with those guys, too —
KRIS KING: Colin is right. We have split our ice facility managers in both markets. They’ll work with both local ice crews. Both sheets of ice were put down on the last couple days. They’ll be working off fresh sheets of ice. There will be no morning skates in either facilities, especially in the early going, because of the ability to have the practice facilities to totally concentrate on three games a day.
As Colin said, the heat outside generally does affect the ice conditions in our conference final and final generally in June and July. August is a new one for both these buildings. But as Colie said, with the 18,000 less people in those environments and the ability to control the humidity, our guys are quite confident that the ice conditions will be ideal for what we need. And that’s three games a day early and potentially two going forward into this tournament. They’re quite confident that we’re going to be just fine.
Q. A question on testing: You guys have set kind of a 24-hour turnaround on results. Are you concerned at all about that taking resources away from the general public, and do you expect to have any kind of testing delays early on like other leagues have had?
WINNE MEEUWISSE: So that’s a really good question, and when we started out on this whole endeavor, we said we were going to do two things. One was going to be that we were going to work with the local health authorities, and the second was that we did not want to embark on a strategy that was going to take away protective equipment or testing away from vulnerable populations and healthcare workers.
As we built our strategy out, that was really front of mind for us, and right from the fact that the commissioner thankfully delayed our decision of where we were going until we got to see where the trends were going with this pandemic, we were able to select two cities where we felt safe and the disease was in much better shape than many other jurisdictions that we might have originally looked at.
So that’s one issue in terms of the number of cases there would be in the area.
And then secondly, we contracted companies to do our testing. Dynalife in Edmonton and LifeLabs in Toronto, that we were assured had excess capacity. And even as the numbers have changed a bit in the last few weeks, we know that the way we’re doing the testing is using different staffing, different reagents, and a different testing platform or machinery than is being used for the public testing. The quicker turnaround time and the availability of testing is not subtracting from the publicly available testing.
In fact, in Edmonton’s case, I know that they’re even assisting with some of the other provincial lab activities where the public testing is being done.
Q. Commissioner, who has the ultimate authority to decide if someone can play or not?
GARY BETTMAN: Well, I guess in the final analysis it may be me, but I’m going to defer to the medical people, both from the governmental authorities and our own medical people in conjunction with the Players’ Association.
I am not going to be making the medical decisions. I’ll be taking the guidance, but I suppose it’s my authority that determines ultimately who plays in our games and who doesn’t.
But as I said, that’s a decision I’m going to leave to the people who are expert in doing this, particularly our own people, the Players’ Associations, and the governmental authorities.
Q. This is a question for Stephen Walkom. The officials, are you at all worried about their calling the games with so many players and getting in the middle of scrums and that sort of thing?
STEPHEN WALKOM: I’m always worried about guys getting hurt out there because it’s one of those jobs that’s dangerous. However, our guys, in terms of getting in the middle of players, we’re all going to be tested an awful lot before we get into the bubble. Our guys are here. They have been tested. I know the same for the players.
There’s a trust in the system that’s been set up in the bubble, and our guys understand that the players have been tested thoroughly. They’re going to be tested every day, just as they are.
Our guys are going into the game probably more concerned about avoiding sticks and pucks than anything else. Once the puck goes down, that’s probably their real safe concern.
Q. This has to do with media access. Bill, early in the process you told us there would be no media at all within the bubble, and then you changed your mind and added your own, your own media, three guys from the dot com going in, and access watching the game is limited to one per media outlet as I understand. Is there any chance that you’ll soften that stance, allow some media into the bubble? We’ll all take the COVID tests. Or even expanding what the number of media that we can have watching the game in the rink. I mean, it’s a 19,000-seat stadium.
BILL DALY: So with respect to the bubble, I don’t expect that we’ll change the parameters and the rules related to the bubble. With respect to access to the rink, I think in part it’ll depend, like everything else like Gary was talking about, the player families. We’re not into the bubble yet. We are not up and operating as a group. We want to experience that. We want this to evolve and kind of understand where we are. And I’m sure there will be things that can change as we go through this journey.
It’s going to be more than two months of competition on the ice, life in the bubble, and I do expect that as we go along we’ll learn some lessons and we’ll be able to make some amendments and changes that are reflective of the reality of what we’re dealing with.
GARY BETTMAN: Let me just add to that, and it’s something that I said to the clubs on yesterday’s call. Our goal in this entire endeavor is to be perfect, okay. But we’re not living in a world of perfect. We’re going to do everything we can to make things as good as they can be. Things will evolve.
But what we want to make sure of from the outset is we limit the likelihood or the risk of missteps. If we’re not completely fulfilling the media’s expectation on access on day one, we apologize. We’re going to continue to monitor things, understanding your sentiments. But at the end of the day we have a greater responsibility to the people who are required to be in the bubble and to the communities in which we’re playing, and so we’re doing the best we can. I think we’re doing really well.
But let’s take a deep breath and understand the environment that all of us are operating in right now.
Q. The standard of play, of officiating, of all hockey things, obviously the guys have been away for a long time, officials, off-ice officials, and obviously players and coaches. What concerns do you have about like this is the Stanley Cup Playoffs; you’re going to go from 0 to 60 here real quick. What concerns do you have about that?
COLIN CAMPBELL: We discussed that at length, along with Mike Murphy, Kris King, and Stephen has been dealing with his on-ice officials with Zoom calls and questionnaires the last three or four months, and actually from the very beginning of the stoppage not knowing where this was going to go and where we’re going to start up again and what was happening.
And in hockey ops, the same thing. We’ve been discussing situations, and we know we’ll be right back in the fire in a hurry. As we all know in this game, players, coaches, managers are super competitive no matter what the situation is. Once they get into the bubble, we hear right now they’re tired of training camp, they want to get playing, from our people in Edmonton and other managers in Toronto and other managers within their training camps. The players are tired and they want to get playing.
We know — you make a good point. We know they’re going to fire back up and we haven’t played for a while, but we’ve been getting ready. Stephen, I’ll let you take it from here.
STEPHEN WALKOM: Yeah, we’re going into a playoff-like atmosphere right away after an exhibition game or two, which is really good that we get an exhibition game or two. There’s an expectation by the players and there’s an expectation by everyone on this call, including our fans, that our team of officials calls the game the same way that we had called the game all year.
We know it’s going to get ramped up in these early games, and you’re right, we’re going to be going from 0 to 60 real quick. We’ve been doing everything we can to refresh our officials mentally about what’s going to happen on the ice, situations that are going to arise on the ice, and a lot of the challenges that come with that, so that they’re up to speed mentally.
We’ve also been working with them physically because their bodies are going to have to go from 0 to 60, much like the players, and they need to be prepared to skate at a high speed to keep up with the pace of the game.
We’ve been working on both fronts, and we believe that we will be ready when these exhibition games come. Sure, there’s going to be a few small things that will be different, but I think if you talk to any official, once the puck goes down, you really don’t hear anything. You just focus on your task. We all know what the standard is, and our guys are going to be working to it every single night.
KRIS KING: Just to add to what Stephen said, talking to a lot of officials, they’re pretty excited to get working, and they understand that we’ve got our best players for probably one of the first times in playoff history that most teams are going to be healthy and rested, and they know that this is going to be a very, very competitive tournament and a long run to the Cup. They’re excited to be part of it, as we are, as well.
Q. For Gary and Bill, how do you feel two months after announcing the return to play publicly and talking about it? Just personally how gratified and impressed are you that this is actually happening, that players are going to HUB cities, that this will actually occur, and we’re all collectively anxious about the world around us? But to see this come together, what does it mean to you?
GARY BETTMAN: You’ve known me long enough to know that I don’t sit back and try and dislocate my shoulder trying to either pat myself or anybody else on the back. If there’s any point where I’m going to feel substantial emotion, it’ll be a sense of relief when I get to present the Stanley Cup. This has been, as I think I indicated before, an extraordinarily involved, difficult, and unusual circumstance. I think as a league with our players and the Players’ Association we’ve worked very hard together, whether it was the protocols, the return-to-play format, the creation of the HUBs, or the extension of the collective bargaining agreement.
These are all the things that are involved in moving this game forward and ensuring what we believe will continue to be a great future for our game.
But the sense that going to the HUBs on Sunday is cause for celebration, this is just another step in what has been a long journey and still has many, many miles to go before we get to the ultimate place that we’re all striving for, which is the conclusion of the ’19-‘ 20 season and the presentation of what we all believe is the best trophy in all of sports.
We still have a way to go to feel any sort of gratification. I don’t know, Bill? The question was to you, too. Do you have a different sense?
BILL DALY: I mean, as I said yesterday, I feel good that we’ve come a long way, but as Gary said, we still have a long way to go.
I will say that my level of confidence has increased along the way, and in particular since we’ve moved into phase 3, mandatory training camp phase with over 800 players in group team building environments. The fact of the matter is I think I’m comfortable with the protocols and procedures we have in place, and more importantly, I’m comfortable with how the players seem to have embraced them and taken them seriously and are adhering to them.
Knock on wood. As Gary said, we have a long way to go, but I’m certainly a lot more comfortable with where we are now than if you had asked me that question a month ago.
Q. For Bill, just a technical question. The rosters, the players’ rosters, is today the day when teams need to send it to the league? And did you have a lot of pressure to have more people per team in the bubble? I know it’s a 52-person right now. Have you had more pressure to allow more people to go in?
BILL DALY: What I’d say is yes, today is the day we’ve asked the clubs to submit their final rosters of the 52-person traveling party. That can include up to 31 players, similar to submission of opening day rosters. We’ll vet those lists as they come in, make sure they’re compliant with the rules we’ve asked the clubs to live with, and hopefully we’ll be in a position sometime this weekend to release the player lists publicly so that everybody is aware of which players will be traveling to the HUB city.
In terms of the overall traveling party of 52, yes, that was a process. We had significant input from the clubs with respect to what they thought their needs were. Obviously hockey operations had a say with respect to what it takes to operate a club. We wanted to keep the numbers down, to my earlier answer to the question about — we wanted only essential personnel.
So we went through a process where originally we had started with a 50-person traveling party list, and ultimately were convinced and persuaded for good reasons that that list could be as high as 52.
Once we established the 52-person limit and we negotiated that with the Players’ Association, we haven’t had any push-back from the clubs. They obviously have tough decisions to make to fill out that 52-person roster, but the clubs have bought into the rationale for having those limitations and living within the limitations that we’ve established.
Q. Gentlemen, I’m just wondering, Gary and Bill, you weren’t sure if you were going to be going to the bubble last time we spoke. Is that happening? When are you going? How is that going to look? Are you isolating at a cabin in the woods somewhere? And what are some of the final things with the Federal Government in Canada that needed to be ironed out?
GARY BETTMAN: Well, Bill and I have actually put ourselves on the back burner because we currently don’t have the requisite approvals to enter Canada without a 14-day quarantine or enter the bubble.
Without that, we also have an open question as to whether or not an owner or a senior executive from a club who isn’t in the 52, can they come in and watch the games from outside the bubble. Those are questions as we indicated on another topic that are still evolving.
As it relates to Bill and me personally, we decided right now the things that we’re doing don’t lend themselves to us being isolated in a hotel room for 14 days, and so we’re focused on what is essential on the ground, and once everything is up and running we’ll start focusing on where we can be and when.
But we’ve concluded it wasn’t about us. There are more important people right now in terms of playing the game that we have to be focused on, and that’s where our efforts have been.
Do you have a different view, Mr. Daly?
BILL DALY: No. Just to your last point, the final issue or one of the issues we had to iron out with the Public Health Agency of Canada was whether the modified quarantine that is permitted under the letters we got from the Canadian government could extend to third-party providers who we needed to help set up the bubble, who were traveling from the United States. The original letters as issued weren’t broad enough in their language to encompass those people.
So we went through a process of satisfying all of the health authorities, both the Public Health Agency of Canada but also the local health authorities that are governing and regulating our activities that we could make these people as safe as our own employees in terms of bringing them in to Canada, working within a quarantined environment within a bubble, and ultimately we were able to satisfy them that the same conditions would apply and the same considerations would apply.
GARY BETTMAN: And obviously, as I was indicating, it was much more important that we could get those third parties in to set everything up and make it go than whether or not the owners or Bill and I were having access. Those are issues we can deal with down the road as this continues to evolve.
JOHN DELLAPINA: Thanks, everybody who asked questions today, and especially thanks to the gentlemen who have made this all possible and took the time today. Good afternoon, everyone.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports