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NHL working towards a plan for 2021 season
The NHL is still grinding away at a plan for the 2021 season.
According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, deputy commissioner Bill Daly sent out a memo to all 31 teams Tuesday indicating the NHL was hoping to make a recommendation to a board of governors meeting Thursday for what the 2020-21 campaign would look like.
If all goes well, the NHL could have a plan ready to present to NHL Players’ Association executive director Donald Fehr. And then, if that goes well, the terms would be presented to the board for approval by owners.
Some important notes heading into the discussion…
- The NHL’s goal is still to start on Jan. 1 and for the Stanley Cup awarded no later than July 15. With that timeline in mind, you can expect a schedule of somewhere between 48-56 games, though Elliotte Friedman reports that some sources have indicated that the league is trying to play as many as 72 games.
- The league is apparently exploring the idea of using four hub cities but it won’t be the same situation as the summer tournament held in Toronto and Edmonton. Gary Bettman explicitly said that players won’t be expected to go into a hard quarantine as they did during the summer. Instead, the NHL is looking into a modified bubble situation in which teams will head to a hub for 10 to 12 days and then return home to be with their families for a week.
- Another note on the hub cities situation brought up by Elliotte Friedman, teams are apparently pushing against the idea of not playing at their home arenas because of sponsorship naming deals. Companies pay large sums of money to have their names on stadiums and to have those named mentioned during television broadcasts. Playing in only four stadiums all year obviously wouldn’t satisfy sponsorship deals around the league.
- The All-Canadian Division appears to be an inevitability. Bettman mentioned the challenge of the Canada-U.S. border being closed and said that there’s no way all seven teams can be relocated to the United States, like how the Toronto Blue Jays played their season in Buffalo to get around the border issue. Bettman said geographical realignment might be a reality because it doesn’t make sense to have teams flying across the country when it might not be safe to do so.
- Finally, one last sticking point that Friedman mentions is player salaries. He expects the owners to push for players to be paid a smaller percentage of their salaries if the season is shorter and if fans aren’t able to attend games, stating that players will have to pay their fair share of the inevitable revenue loss from the 2021 season. Friedman believes that the owners will push for prorated salaries, akin to what we saw with Major League Baseball this season.
It won’t be easy to reach a perfect agreement that appeases everyone but the clock is starting to tick. If the NHL can’t start in January, it’ll become more and more difficult to get a season in for 2021 that allows the NHL to return to a normal calendar for the 2021-22 season.