NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman rallied his generals to talk ‘Hub Life’ and provide a status on the league’s Return to Play efforts.
Bettman was joined on the call by Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Willem Meeuwisse, Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer, Senior Executive VP of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell, Senior Executive VP and Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom, and Senior VP of Hockey Operations Kris King.
Campbell reported “business as usual” for the league’s Situation Room as well as Player Safety. Both will remain centralized, handling reviews for all the games as they have in seasons past; there’s no need to change up their workflow nor have them on-site in either hub city. Goals will continue to be reviewed in Toronto, while Player Safety will continue in New York.
As for the officials and officiating managers, they have checked in. The league has 20 officials – 10 referees, 10 linesmen – at each hub city, along with three officiating managers and Hockey Ops managers. Those are typically the series supervisors, each assigned to one series during the playoff rounds.
Stephen Walkom, the NHL’s Director of Officiating, will be in Toronto.
“Ever since the pause started, we have continued with our weekly communication on best practices, rule refreshers, and just getting to know each other and our families a little bit better,” said Walkom. “The last two weeks we have concentrated on Return To Play, with daily Zoom calls alternating between workouts with our trainer [NHL Director of Fitness Dave Smith] with functional workouts to get ready to skate. Everybody’s had a different opportunity to get on the ice [in their respective hometowns]. We’re real excited as a team to get skating tomorrow. It’ll be our first skate as a team on the 24th, we’ll be doing the same on the 25th.”
“We’ve covered all sorts of topics [in our workshops] – living as a team, living in the bubble, and what we can do to be the best possible team on the ice.”
“The team has been really enthusiastic. They’re healthy. They’re ready to hit the ice. They’ve had their full [medical evaluations]; they’ve cleared that. They’re really looking forward to getting back and helping the game get going again.”
The league has already pared down its officiating roster from 68 down to 40. They’ll continue to cut back as the playoffs advance, as they’ve done in years past.
“We will be using the 20 officials in each hub through the play-in round [and] through the first round, and then we’ll be reducing down just as we would normally during the season, down to the second round numbers,” Walkom confirmed. “After the second round, we’ll be reducing again and converging our two crews to Edmonton for the Conference Finals and the Cup Final.”
For now, the focus is on getting those 40 officials ready to go. The puck drops next week.