Gary Bettman: NHL's return to play keeps integrity

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman promises this summer's unconventional tournament "won't be too gimmicky," as the league balances safety concerns with creating a good television product and maintaining the integrity of the Stanley Cup.

"I think everybody can feel good, based on the combination of the play-in round and the way we're going to run the playoffs, that this will be a full competition which will bring out the best in our teams and our players," Bettman told ESPN's Mike Greenberg on Monday. "The Stanley Cup champion will be deserving of that crown and the most storied trophy in all of sports."

Bettman was one of six professional sports commissioners to be interviewed for SportsCenter's Return to Sports special, which will aired Monday on ESPN.

Bettman reiterated that the NHL has been working collaboratively with the NHLPA ever since games were paused March 12. NHL players are due to report back for training camp on July 10, though there are several key details the players and league must negotiate before games resume -- including what bubble life will look like and which two hub cities will be chosen. The sides have already agreed to a 24-team format; the first round is considered the qualifying round, while the top four teams in each conference get byes.

"Everything we've been doing has been a joint effort [with the players], working together, to make sure that we're adhering to the protocols which will be very strict," Bettman said.

The NHL plans on testing all players and members of each team's 50-person traveling party daily.

"If there's one positive test -- again, this will be under the strict guidance of the medical people -- that person will be isolated," Bettman said. "And we'll be monitoring anybody, through contract tracing, that was in close proximity. Obviously, for any sport, if you have a major outbreak, it's going to change everything; but we're being told that an isolated case or a couple of isolated cases shouldn't interfere with the plans, and we should be able to move forward."

In the interview, Bettman said the NHL is still in conversation with the Canadian government about easing the country's mandatory 14-day quarantine period for visitors.

"We are working particularly with the Canadian government about determining how we can deal with moving from the training camp phase to a possible hub in Canada," Bettman said. "Because obviously if the players would have to quarantine for 14 days in between training camp and going to the hub, that wouldn't work."

Bettman promised the playoffs will set the right tone and make for a good television product. He said no less than 54 companies have pitched the NHL on technologies to enhance the game with empty stands.

"We will create an environment that will be exciting, will be entertaining, will be consistent with a competition that has integrity," Bettman said.