Watch CBS News

When will live sports be back? NHL commissioner says it's a "1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle"

Pro sports leagues grapple with lockdowns
Professional sports leagues' seasons in question amid pandemic 04:01

Millions of sports fans will tune into their first major event in six weeks, as the NFL draft kicks off Thursday night. For the first time, the draft will take place virtually, with Commissioner Roger Goodell announcing picks from his basement.

It comes as sports leagues around the world grapple with how to return after coronavirus cancellations.

"It's actually like a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle that doesn't have borders," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told "CBS This Morning: Saturday" co-host Dana Jacobson.

Bettman is just one executive trying to steer his sport through an unknown landscape.

"If we can play in a small window without fans, we'll be prepared to do that. If we need to go to centralized locations with no fans and modify the schedule, we'll do that. We will be as agile and as adaptable as we can be," he said. 

Bettman and fellow commissioners from both team and individual sports have had ongoing discussions with President Donald Trump about an inevitable return.

Pro sports like hockey, basketball and golf had their seasons paused by the pandemic, while others like baseball have yet to start.

Bettman said for all sports, health and testing are the top priorities.

"It's one, getting the number of tests you need to be comfortable that you're doing the right things and coming together. And two, we don't want to be in a situation where we're depriving the medical community of the tests they may need to deal with people who are ill," he said. 

Asked if he feels pressure to get back to playing, the commissioner said, "We feel pressure, but it's really perhaps internalized in terms of what we represent."

Baltimore Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell, a 13-year NFL veteran and member of the NFL Players Association executive committee, said he wonders if there will be a football season and said his biggest concern going forward is "the fan involvement." 

Campbell also said health is on the minds of players. Two players in the NFL have tested positive for coronavirus, including his close friend Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller.

Campbell said "it's pretty scary" to see healthy, pro athletes like himself catching the virus.

"And that goes into the going back to work," he said. "We could all be sick and not even know it. ... You might not have symptoms."

But while every sport is different, Campbell said he believes no matter how each comes back, with fans or without, it's the return that matters most.

"Sports brings happiness. I mean that's one of the best things about sports ... gives you something to believe in. Here's your reason to hope. Everybody has their team they want to hope wins the game or goes and wins the championship, and that's what makes sports special," he said. "I really do think sports will be beneficial for a lot of people right now going through tough times. Just bringing back somebody to root for."

To get those sports back, leagues are considering neutral sites, limited sites and no fans. 

As far as dates to come back, there's no word yet from the MLB. The NBA and NHL have said they can play late into summer to finish this season, which is their priority. 

The PGA Tour is looking at a June return without fans, but said that is contingent on available testing for players, caddies and support personnel.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.