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The NHL is targeting a July return

THANK YOU...Florida?

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Anaheim Ducks Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the National Hockey League may finish its season after all. Florida Panthers president Matt Caldwell said on a conference call on April 22 that the league hopes to resume play in July.

The Miami Herald reported on April 22 the tentative plan was to hold games at “four or five neutral sites with limited or no fans.”

The NHL season paused on March 12 and players are quarantined through April. Caldwell expects quarantine to be extended into May. The hope had been to hold games at a single neutral site. That idea didn’t pan out due to issues with player accommodations, facilities for staff, and the ability to bring broadcasting crews to cover postseason games according to ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski.

What does wrestling have to do with hockey?

Florida itself could be an option to hold games. The Ultimate Fighting Championship, the industry leader in mixed martial arts, will be holding events in Jacksonville on May 9, May 13, and May 16.

Sports organizations can thank a controversial memo from Governor Ron DeSantis classifying sports as an essential business. This has allowed pro wrestling leader WWE, which has a performance center in Orlando, to continue with TV taping during the pandemic.

Donald Trump & VInce McMahon Make WWE History Photo by Mark A. Wallenfang/Getty Images

On the same day this decision came from DeSantis’ office, news broke that the America First Action Committee, a-pro President Trump PAC led by former WWE executive Linda McMahon and wife to CEO Vince McMahon, pledged $18.5 million to Florida.

Linda McMahon served as the head of Trump’s Small Business Administration and Trump is also a part of the WWE Hall of Fame.

Essential services in Florida now include “employees at a professional sports and media production with a national audience — including any athletes, entertainers, production team, executive team, media team and any others necessary to facilitate including services supporting such production — only if the location is closed to the general public.”

Specific sports were not specified in the above quote, which could give hope to the NHL. Multiple outlets have mentioned the possibility of the NHL moving straight into the playoffs when play resumes.

2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Seven Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

What now?

CBS Sports reported TSN’s Darren Dreger conducted a “flash poll” with 24 general managers, and 20 said that they would be in favor of a best-of-five series from the opening round until the conference final. Those general managers still prefer a seven-game series to determine the Stanley Cup Champion. The other four want to leave the postseason as all seven-game series.

Currently the Blues are the top team in the Central Division and all of the Western Conference. The defending Stanley Cup champion last played the Anaheim Ducks on March 11 before the season pause, earning a 4-2 win on the road.

St. Louis Game Time is monitoring this situation for more information as it develops.