BOSTON (CBS) — Earlier this month, a report surfaced saying that the NHL was considering holding games in Manchester, N.H., if the league were to resume play this summer. Now, New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu has confirmed that he’s had those talks with the NHL.
“I’ve got to be careful. There is truth to that,” Sununu said on The Greg Hill Show on WEEI on Friday. “I have had discussions about that. I don’t know whether it’s going to happen, but we are talking about it. Yup — that’s all I can really say right now.”
While it’s unknown at this point in time if the NHL will return at all in 2020, the report in early April said that the league was looking at North Dakota and New Hampshire as potential host cities for games. Fans certainly would not be in the equation, so the league would need rinks that can host multiple NHL games per day while keeping players safe.
— Chris Sununu (@GovChrisSununu) April 17, 2020
“When we’ll have an opportunity to return depends on things that we have absolutely no control over, because it all starts with everybody’s health and well-being,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told CNN this week. “And until there’s a sense that people can get together, not just to fill our arenas but even our players to get together to work out, we don’t know when we can come back. But it’s something we’re monitoring on a daily basis.”
Sununu said the state would certainly be open to the idea, but it’s not a simple situation by any means.
“I gotta tell you, it would be a very interesting opportunity for New Hampshire, but even the venues, right, would have to say, ‘Yes, we want this.’ Because we gotta make sure what are the liabilities are here? What if a team were to get sick — how is it going to be managed? So we’re working through some of those logistics. But that’s on the table, for sure.”
Here's the audio of New Hampshire Gov. @GovChrisSununu confirming to us that he's spoken to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about playing the rest of the season in Manchester, NH & that it is "on the table" –> pic.twitter.com/eJnUbPYgVe
— The Greg Hill Show (@TheGregHillShow) April 17, 2020
The NHL does not yet have a plan to return, though the league has been weighing various options, including a Stanley Cup Playoffs that would run through August.
Sununu was careful to not speak too much on the matter, as clearly so much cannot yet be planned at this point in time. He did explain why a place like Manchester — a city with an AHL facility in a not-too-big city — might be appealing for the NHL.
“I wish I could … I don’t want to overstep my bounds and talk too much. I know they’re looking at a couple of different venues across the country, they are looking in the northeast,” Sununu said. “Obviously they can’t — the worst part about major sports is that they’re all in big cities. And every big city has a COVID problem. Right? Because it’s so conducive to those [population] densities. So you just can’t have it there. So I don’t know whether other sports would look to this model, but we have talked to a few folks in the NHL and we will continue to have those discussions.”