NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said on Tuesday that completing the 2019-20 NHL regular season "may not be possible."

The NHL paused its season on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic, with players ordered to remain quarantined in their homes until at least April 15. Bettman hoped to have more clarity on a season restart by the end of the month, but he acknowledged for the first time that finishing the full 82-game regular season might not happen.

Bettman said the NHL faces issues of fairness regarding "who gets in if we can't complete the regular season" before the Stanley Cup playoffs begin. NHL teams have anywhere from 11 to 14 games remaining in their regular seasons, with 189 games left when play was postponed.

Determining how to seed the playoffs without the benefit of a completed regular season has been a point of debate within the NHL and the NHL Players' Association for weeks.

Whatever the format, the NHL's return faces enormous obstacles, which include the health and safety of those involved; the location of games, as the NHL has discussed the potential of holding playoff rounds in neutral-site arenas to better control the environment; and the local and federal restrictions on travel, shelter in place and essential businesses that Bettman anticipates won't be consistent from region to region -- or, in the NHL's case, nation to nation -- if and when the league restarts.

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