If the NHL can get back to business in May or June, even if that means playing games at neutral sites with no spectators, Bruins ownership would like TD Garden to be one of up to four regional sites the league selects from the member clubs in its 31 US and Canadian cities.
A league source confirmed Friday that Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, who is also the NHL’s chairman of the board, has expressed interest in his building on Causeway Street being considered among the so-called “centralized” or “neutral” sites if play can be resumed.
The source emphasized, however, that Jacobs is among some 20 owners who have evinced an interest in using their arenas as potential hosts.
Bruins president Cam Neely confirmed later Friday that he “did mention to the league” the club’s interest in being a host city.
“Obviously, that depends on what restrictions may be in place for the city or state," Neely wrote via e-mail.
The league has not made public what scenarios it is considering for a potential reboot, in part because its planning can be forced to change day to day based on how the pandemic unfolds.
Given current numbers, it would be difficult to imagine the league selecting Boston, a COVID-19 hotspot, as a host venue. But if the numbers were to turn favorable, anything is possible.
During his virtual town hall meeting with the club’s season ticket-holders Thursday, Neely spoke in general terms about how play might look if it can resume at centralized locations.
“If we are doing it without fans, [the league is] going to try to make this the best TV event programming possible,” he said. “If that is the case, you might see different camera angles, because you might be able to bring the cameras down a little lower than you normally would because there’s no fans in the way. So I think they are looking at how can we bring the game on the TV a little differently than you see now.
“But it’s not a bad idea just to kind of drop-ship the teams in, keep them quarantined in hotels and bring them into games. As long as everyone is taking care of themselves in that regard, I think it probably gives you a little better opportunity to finish out the regular season in that respect.”
If the league is successful in securing four cities around the continent, including at least one in Canada, the likeliest scenario would be for each city to serve as host to its division.
Using Boston as an example as the Atlantic Division host:
▪ The Bruins, with 12 games remaining, would be quarantined in local housing, most likely a hotel in the North Station area.
▪ The division’s other seven clubs (Tampa Bay, Toronto, Florida, Montreal, Buffalo, Ottawa, and Detroit) also would be quarantined in the Causeway Street area.
▪ The eight clubs likely would play each other at least once, chipping away to complete the regular-season schedule, and some clubs would square off twice.
▪ The league envisions requiring upward of three weeks to complete the season, with chosen rinks hosting up to three games a day.
▪ On-ice officials also would have to be housed and quarantined.
▪ Upon the completion of the regular season, the playoffs would start, the start date currently projected to be the end of June or start of July.
▪ If the COVID-19 restrictions have eased dramatically, it’s possible, though not likely, the 16 qualifying playoff teams could play games in their home rinks, with or without spectators.
It is important to keep in mind that all models are theoretical. It’s possible that the league would be able to secure only one, two, or three sites as host cities.
Meanwhile, the NBA and Major League Baseball are considering similar host-city scenarios, with recent reports that the NBA might utilize Las Vegas for all remaining regular-season games, and MLB possibly setting up two shops, one in Florida and another in Arizona.
Neely said Thursday that the league envisioned players requiring a training camp some three weeks in duration, leading to the resumption of game play. A mid-May start to camp would lead to games starting up at the start of June, followed by the three weeks necessary to complete the regular season. And then on to the playoffs.
If Boston were one of the chosen sites, the Garden could serve as a site for games and practices, and the building’s many dining areas could be used to feed some 200 athletes and scores of team personnel and league officials.
One factor in Boston’s favor would be the ample number of available college rinks, including those at Boston College, Harvard, Boston University, and Northeastern, that could be considered for practice, along with the sheet at the Bruins training facility in Brighton.
Overall, Boston as a location makes a lot of sense, provided the X-factor that the virus has been diminished to the satisfaction of all parties.