America's most respected infectious disease expert is recommending the NHL employ its backup plan for the 2020-21 campaign rather than the league's favored strategy.
"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,'" TSN's Frank Seravalli reported Tuesday on "Insider Trading."
"That's not the preference of both clubs and players, but I'm told that hubs very much remain a Plan B and are on the table," Seravalli added.
The NHL and NHLPA are in the midst of talks seeking to establish terms for the upcoming season. While the two sides reportedly prefer a 56-game schedule, Bettman says putting the players in a bubble for longer than the duration of the 2019-20 return to play wouldn't be ideal.
"(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 Nicholas J. Cotsonika. "That just wasn't practical."
However, Bettman acknowledged the league is exploring the possibility of using hubs in some capacity.
"If enough teams can't play, again, without fans, in their own facilities, then we may have to move more and more toward a hub," he said. "It may be that some teams are playing in other buildings. It may be that a whole group of teams have to play in other buildings."
The NHL resumed its 2019-20 season in August with a 24-team playoff in the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto.