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Bettman: Plan is to hold ’22 NHL draft in person in Montreal

July 24, 2021 GMT
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman walks next to Lake Union after taking part in an interview Wednesday, July 21, 2021, during the Seattle Kraken's expansion draft event in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman walks next to Lake Union after taking part in an interview Wednesday, July 21, 2021, during the Seattle Kraken's expansion draft event in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman walks next to Lake Union after taking part in an interview Wednesday, July 21, 2021, during the Seattle Kraken's expansion draft event in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) — Commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday night the plan is to hold the 2022 NHL draft at Bell Centre in Montreal, which is where the 2020 event was scheduled to take place before the pandemic forced the festivities online.

The 2021 draft was the second to be held virtually with team staff in their home cities. Bettman ran the draft from the NHL Network studio in Secaucus, New Jersey.

“Yes, for the second straight year, we are coming to you not from our customary spot on the floor of an NHL arena,” Bettman said when opening the draft. “Thank you again to (owner) Geoff Molson and (the Canadiens) organization for being patient with us for one more year. Our plan is to be with you next year to conduct the 2022 NHL draft in front of a packed house at Montreal’s Bell Centre.”

Bettman told The Associated Press the league is aiming for full arenas at the start of next season and an in-person draft in Montreal but would be ready to adjust as circumstances dictate.

“Our view of the world is we’re planning on normal,” Bettman said. “We plan, and we make sure we’re flexible. Whether or not we’re normal is beyond our control. It’s a function of the (virus) variant and what the governments tell us. But our plan is go normal and if we find ourselves in a situation where that’s not possible, we’ll deal with it.”

If NHL players go to the Olympics, the Stanley Cup would likely be handed out in late June with the draft pushed to July. There is currently no agreement in place between the league, players and international officials to guarantee participation in Beijing in February.

The schedule for next season that was released Thursday night includes an Olympic break from Feb. 7-22. Bettman said negotiations with the Players’ Association, International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee are ongoing.

“There are a couple of fundamental things (to work out),” Bettman said. “We’ll deal with what we can deal with. We had to release the schedule, so our covenant with the players was if the PA can figure everything out, we would shut down.”

There’s no official deadline for when an Olympic agreement must be reached.

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Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

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