According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Freidman, the NHL and players’ association have engaged lately about starting the 2020-21 season on Friday, January 15 with training camps opening on New Year’s Day, just two weeks ahead of the potential season start date. The season would be 50-59 games long. The two sides specifically discussed 52- and 56-game long seasons.
TSN’s Frank Seravalli also reported that the NHL shared some draft schedules with the NHLPA on Thursday. Though the drafts were based on the January 1 date that the league has been targeting since September, both sides discussed pushing it back by 14-15 days.
The talks have not been related to salary for the upcoming season, which provided some tension between the players and the league last month.
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 due to the border closure between the United States and Canada. Commissioner Gary Bettman has continuously said the upcoming season might not end the way it begins.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly has previously 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. Lately, Bettman and Daly have expressed the main goal is to return to a normal regular season in 2021-22 when the 32nd franchise is slated to debut.
The NHL will likely 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 other 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. It appears that teams playing in their home arenas appears to be the most likely. If they play in hubs, teams would 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.
This tweet raised eyebrows yesterday…Reason: hearing that NHL/NHLPA engaged in recent days about a Jan 15 start, with training camps opening approximately two weeks earlier. Number of games would be in the 50s. We will see where this goes over the next few days. https://t.co/pRwAXiE0QX
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) December 4, 2020
By Harrison Brown