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The Wayne Gretzky statue outside Rogers Place sports an Edmonton Oilers mask during the COVID-19 pandemic, in Edmonton, Alberta, Thursday, March 26, 2020. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

ESPN’s Barry Melrose talks state of NHL

Coronavirus has left the sports world in a state of chaos. Leagues around the world suspended play, leaving sports fans wondering when they will see their beloved sports return.

Many sports were brought to a halt in the middle of the regular season, one of them being the National Hockey League. With 189 games left in the season before play was suspended, the future of NHL play is unknown.

World of uncertainty

ESPN’s Barry Melrose joined Steve Russell on SportScene Tuesday to talk about the state of the league. As connected as he is, Melrose is just as much in the dark as anyone else.

“I’m just like everybody else,” Melrose said. “I’m waiting to see what’s going on, when it goes on, if it goes on and how it goes on.”

Have the players union and the owners spoke yet about what would happen when and if the season resumes?

Melrose:

“I’m sure they have. These people have been through work stoppages before. They know what the song and dance is. I bet you they’ve got a war room set up somewhere and they’ve been going over all the scenarios. If it starts in a month, if it starts in two months. When is the last day it can start? Can we have a full regular season? Do we have no regular season? I’ve bet you they’ve kicked every conceivable idea around. They’re smart guys. They’ve been through it before. I can’t see either one of these organizations becoming stupid all of the sudden and doing something crazy.”

If there was only a partial season and you were the commissioner, how would you construct that?

Melrose:

“There’s about 10-12 games left in the regular season, which is basically a month of hockey. Now, the NHL has to decide if it’s paramount that we have the full regular season. Do we just have the 16 teams that are in the playoffs now and say sorry to the ones that just missed it? Do we have play-in games? Maybe there are three or four teams that are so close, for example the New York Rangers. Do we have a series of play-in games, where it’s best of one and that winning team goes in to the playoffs? Do we start the first series best of three? Best of five? There are a number of things they could do.

All of these things have been tried by the NHL because of things like work stoppages. We’ve had a situation where we didn’t play a full slate of regular season games. It’s crazy, the NHL and it’s unbelievable history has been through an epidemic like this where the Stanley Cup wasn’t awarded. The only year where the Stanley Cup wasn’t awarded was in 1919-20 when the Spanish Flu came through and killed millions of people. The NHL wasn’t finished that year.”

What could have been

On March 12, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the NHL would pause the 2019-20 regular season due to the concerns over the coronavirus. The regular season of the NHL was scheduled to end April 4, with the Stanley Cup Playoffs starting the week of April 6.

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