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Blues exec believes hockey returns this season, and wants St. Louis to play a leading role

Jim Thomas, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Hockey

Like everybody else, Chris Zimmerman doesn't know exactly how it will happen. But he thinks the NHL will get there.

"I do believe we are going to complete the 2019-20 season," Zimmerman, the Blues' president and CEO of business operations, told the Post-Dispatch. "As the commissioner (Gary Bettman) has said, first and foremost is we have to have a plan that is a safe plan for the players, for the staff, for anybody who is going to support us getting back on the ice."

Those plans in the age of the coronavirus pandemic, in hockey and other sports, revolve around games without fans in the stands, a limited number of support personnel in the building, and guidelines on any contact with the players. It assumes a continuation of social distancing, and a safe environment for practicing, playing games, and lodging. And testing. Of course, the devil is in the details.

"There are lots of issues for each sport to resolve in the short term with the players association to create a plan that's going to work," Zimmerman said. "But again, I feel confident that not only will we complete the season, but that we'll get the opportunity to defend the Stanley Cup."

Zimmerman would like nothing better than for St. Louis to play a leading role in the return to hockey, as a pod or host city.

"St. Louis, I can guarantee you, is always interested in hosting as much hockey as is humanly possible," he said. "Meaning, of course, we're greatly interested. Obviously, so are many other markets.

 

"There will be some (markets) that would be more difficult to play in based on the level of the virus. So yes, we have shown interest and have provided the league with different scenarios and insights around our buildings and how and why we think we'd be a fantastic hub city in the event that that happens."

A couple of weeks ago, a scenario of establishing four pod cities with seven or eight teams situated in each city seemed to be gaining traction.

"We would welcome it," Zimmerman said. "We love being on the stage of the NHL and helping them create the best possible environment for players. And certainly in what would be a very unique situation of potentially having seven other teams in our marketplace. Under any circumstance, even without fans, that's a really exciting opportunity for us to host."

From the Winter Classic, to last season's Stanley Cup run, to this season's All-Star weekend, St. Louis has shown it can handle big NHL events.

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