Dr. Fauci reportedly pushed NHL to start season in hub cities

Kyle Cantlon
·3 min read
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci speaks with Vice President Mike Pence as they participate in a news briefing with member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Thursday, Nov 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has been consulting with Dr. Fauci on the complex safety logistics surrounding the start of the 2021 NHL season. (Getty)

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has been seeking the advice of Dr. Tony Fauci — widely regarded as America's top infectious disease expert — over the past few months as the league scrambles to safely start its 2021 season amid the pandemic.

On Thursday, TSN's Frank Seravalli revealed that Fauci has pushed the NHL to at least begin its new campaign within the confines of hub cities.

"I'm told that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has sought the counsel of Dr. Tony Fauci from the National Institutes of Health over the course of this pandemic, and one of the recommendations that Dr. Fauci had made to Gary Bettman over the last number of weeks was, 'If you want to pull this off and start the NHL season safely, the best way to do that would be in hubs,” Seravalli said.

“That's not the preference of both clubs and players,” added the TSN insider, “but I'm told that hubs very much remain a Plan B and are on the table.”

With around four weeks until the NHL’s desired regular season start date of Jan. 13, it’s quite curious that the league hasn’t yet established something so basic as to where teams are going to play their hockey games. But a deep, burning desire from both owners and players to skate, work and live at home rather than revert to god-knows-how-many weeks of isolated “bubble” hockey once again has the NHL exhausting every option before going down that road again.

"(Playing in home arenas) will not be as risk-averse as being in a bubble or a hub, but for an entire regular season, even if it's abbreviated, we didn't think we could put the players in a bubble for six months,” the commissioner said Wednesday, according to NHL.com's Nick Cotsonika.

The league has appeared to hit a tipping point, however, with Bettman admitting to Cotsonika that it is in fact considering the use of hub cities or bubbles, especially as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in both the U.S. and Canada.

“Right now, we're focused on whether or not we're going to play in our buildings and do some limited travelling or play in a bubble, and that's something we're working on and getting medical advice on,” Bettman said.

The commissioner also cited last year’s Stanley Cup finalists — Tampa Bay and Dallas — as teams who carried a “huge burden” during the NHL’s restart as they were isolated away from family for more than two months.

“We don't think we can conduct an entire regular season that way,” Bettman said.

“But circumstances, depending on where COVID is spiking and where the medical system is being taxed at any given time, may require us to adjust.”

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