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NHL considering North Dakota as a neutral location for 2019-20 games

The prospect of watching professional sports any time soon seems like a massive stretch as the world has virtually come to a halt due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

In the grand scheme on things, sports are a fairly trivial issue, but leagues are still working on ideas to get their operations rolling again, even if it means playing in front of empty stadiums in random locations. Take Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota, home of the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Hawks, for example.

According to Elliotte Friedman, the NHL and the NHLPA have been spitballing scenarios as to where the rest of the 2019-20 season can be played out, and North Dakota is a popular destination.

The Ralph Englestad Area is one of the best non-NHL hockey facilities in the United States. Actually, it’s even been regarded as superior to many NHL rinks. Known as the “Taj Mahal of Hockey,” it can fit 11,643 spectators, though that doesn’t really matter much in this situation.

The logistics are obviously challenging (finding accommodations for everyone, getting everybody on flights, and so on) but if hockey is going to return any time even remotely soon, it’s going to be behind closed doors. There’s simply no way we’re anywhere close to allowing thousands of fans to enter a stadium together at this point. Ultimately, it’s best for the NHL and the NHLPA to spitball ideas and be creative and flexible in their potential solutions.

Elsewhere, the Premier League has apparently come to a tentative agreement to resume play in June behind closed doors. The COVID-19 peak in the United Kingdom is expected to come in the next week or two, meaning games and small gathers could be safer by summertime.

Obviously, safety is the primary concern here. But in the case of the NHL, the players have some major motivation to get their season concluded beyond just finding out who wins the Stanley Cup. A decrease in hockey-related revenue would affect escrow and their future earnings.