According to The Star’s Kevin McGran, it appears increasingly likely that NHL teams will play the 2020-21 season in their home arenas (without fans to start). However, the league is looking at all options and in contact communication with the players’ association.
Not expecting much news from NHL BOG today, though it looks increasingly like teams will play in their home rinks and not hubs as Gary Bettman suggested just a few days ago. That said, everything is on the table. NHL and NHLPA in constant contact.
— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) November 12, 2020
While it appeared that the NHL was hoping to make a recommendation to the board of governors regarding the upcoming season on Thursday, it does not seem like that will come to fruition.
The NHL will almost certainly be grinding away at finalizing the plans for the 2020-21 season in the next couple of weeks as they are still targeting a January 1 opening night, just 50 days away from Thursday.
The NHL was looking into hubs at least to start the season and we could see a standings realignment and reduced schedule for just 2020-21. Commissioner Gary Bettman has continuously said the upcoming season might not end the way it begins.
There have been rumors swirling that the 2020-21 season could be around 48-68 games long but the NHL is currently pushing for a full 82-game slate, though they know that might not be possible. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly has said that the NHL has models of this season that could see it end beyond July 23, the start of the 2021 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Word around the hockey community has been that the NHL could realign the divisions for next season only due to the closure of the border between the United States and Canada. That could mean the seven Canadian teams (Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, and Montreal Canadians) making up one division this season. The league would have to split the 24 teams in the United States into three divisions.
Bettman has stated that he would never ask his players to participate in a bubble format like what they did in August and September in Toronto and Edmonton for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, he said the NHL was looking at three possibilities a few days ago: each team playing at their home arena (and maybe hosting fans depending on local COVID-19 status and restrictions), in hubs, or in a hybrid system. If they play in hubs, teams will rotate in for 10-12 days and go home for a week to spend time with friends and family. The NHL would figure out COVID-19 testing before the season begins.
In any plan proposed, the NHLPA would have to sign off on it for it to come to fruition.
Whether fans could attend games would likely be up to the local governments.
By Harrison Brown