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NHL ponders several options for upcoming season

The league is considering playing in hubs for 10 to 12 days, playing in their own arenas, or a hybrid setup.

Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, said the league is exploring several options for where games will be played in the upcoming season.
Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, said the league is exploring several options for where games will be played in the upcoming season.Read moreCharles Krupa / AP

The NHL is exploring numerous options for the pandemic-delayed 2021 season, including a reduced schedule, temporary realignment, and short-term hub cities, according to Gary Bettman, the league’s commissioner.

The league is considering playing in hubs for 10 to 12 days, playing in their own arenas, or a hybrid setup, Bettman said Tuesday in a panel discussion with fellow commissioners Adam Silver (NBA) and Rob Manfred (MLB) during the Paley International Council Summit.

If fans are allowed in arenas, the number of spectators will be determined by each city.

Valerie Camillo, president of business operations for the Flyers and the Wells Fargo Center, said there are ongoing conversations with city officials about permitted capacity for Flyers and 76ers home games.

“We have a comprehensive plan called ‘Back to Broad’ and we are talking to the city to seek their further guidance, thinking, and permissions,” she said.

The Wells Fargo Center seats about 20,000 fans. But the coronavirus will reduce that number if the city decides to allow spectators.

Camillo said Pennsylvania casinos have been open at 50% capacity since the summer, “and I’m not aware of any public health problems associated with them.”

She said the Wells Fargo Center’s plan “has been all about how to reopen safely and get fans back in the building when our games are allowed to begin."

Camillo added that “people will make personal decisions as to how comfortable they are to returning.”

If a coronavirus vaccine is approved and distributed widely, it will be a “game-changer for public safety, public health, and also for the industries that have had an economic impact,” Camillo said.

The NHL is hoping to start its season Jan. 1, but that might be too optimistic. If the season does start Jan. 1, training camps would open at some point in December.

Because of travel restrictions between the United States and Canada, an all-Canadian division(s) is a possibility. In an effort to reduce travel, all divisions could be altered based on geography.

Prospect keeps rolling

When the Flyers traded up with Nashville in last month’s draft to select Elliot Desnoyers in the fifth round, they knew the 5-foot-11, 175-pound forward was a relentless two-way player who rarely got outworked on the ice.

But they didn’t think he would become the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s version of Patrice Bergeron.

In his first 12 games this year for Halifax, Desnoyers has 11 goals – as many as he scored in 61 games last season for Moncton – and nine assists. He also had a pair of four-goal outbursts within four games of each other.

A big fan of the fictional Rocky Balboa, Desnoyers, 18, has never been to Philadelphia. When he does get there, he said in a phone interview Wednesday from Halifax, “the first thing I’ll do is probably go to the rink and then go to the Rocky steps.”

Desnoyers (pronounced dan-OY-yay) played left wing for Moncton last season. This year, after being traded to Halifax, he has moved to center and is playing in all situations.

“I’d say I’m more useful all around the ice when I’m at center,” he said.

He attributes his hot start – he is second in the league in goals – to improving his speed by working out intensely in the weight room and making his legs stronger this summer, along with getting time on the power play. He wasn’t on the power play last season.

The Quebec native says he models his game after winger Brendan Gallagher, who is to Montreal what Travis Konecny is to the Flyers – someone who is in perpetual motion.

Gallagher is a “hard-working guy. I think he’s a great leader,” Desnoyers said. “He goes to the dirty areas and I think he’s a great skater and has really good vision.”

As for his future, Desnoyers, who turns 19 on Jan. 21, is realistic. He said he can see himself in the NHL when he’s anywhere from 21 to 23.

For those curious, Dave Schultz, a key contributor as the Flyers won Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975, has made the most impact among fifth-round picks in franchise history. Most of the Flyers’ fifth-rounders never reached the NHL, but in recent years they struck gold in that round by selecting Oskar Lindblom in 2014.

David Kase (2015), Noah Cates (2017), and goalie Samuel Ersson (2018) are promising prospects who were also fifth-round selections. Add Desnoyers to that list.