98.5 The Sports Hub staff report
The NHL is looking at a mid-January start to a 52- or 56-game 2021 season, according to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan.
Originally shooting for a Jan. 1 start date, the lack of progress on the side of both the NHL and NHLPA has made such a start a complete pipedream. With the sides failing to make real progress this past week, there’s simply not enough time to hammer out an agreement, get in a training camp (and accelerated camp for the seven teams not invited to the Edmonton and Toronto playoff bubbles), and a potential exhibition slate to get things fired at 100 percent for New Year’s Day.
So now it’s off to mid-January, where the NHL will to hope to drop the puck with a closer-to-complete season compared to the 48-game season that came as a result of the 2012-13 lockout. But that, as noted by Kaplan, will take some work.
“There have been regular conversations between the NHL and NHLPA about potential schedules, formats or protocols,” Kaplan wrote. “But first, the sides must get past a financial stalemate: Owners, wanting additional cash flow to kick-start the season, have asked players to tweak their financial arrangement, including deferral of salary beyond the 10% they already agreed to this summer. Players have pushed back on making any changes to their financial arrangement, considering they just signed a new CBA in July. However, sources on the players’ side said the NHLPA would be willing to work with the NHL as long as the owners are willing to give them concessions in return.”
The format of the upcoming season remains up in the air, sure, but it’s pretty much completely understood that we’re likely looking at an all-Canada division, and that the rest of the league will be divvied up into regional-based divisions. If that happens, the Bruins are likely to move into what’s essentially the Metropolitan Division. As far as the schedule itself, there’s been talk of the league doing a ‘series’ approach where teams play the same opponent three games in a row, or potential mini-bubbles where multiple teams set up shop in the same city for multiple days and games. The AHL regularly does three games in three days, and that may be one of the league’s easiest ways to get this season done in a timely fashion.
The financials, as always, have been the trickiest part.
Citing the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and with buildings unlikely to allow fans into its doors out of the gate, the NHL has reportedly asked for additional concessions on a CBA agreement that’s not even five months old. (Check out NHL agent Allan Walsh’s Twitter timeline if you ever need to know how they feel about the whole thing.)
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, however, has pushed back on the idea that the NHL is trying to renegotiate the CBA.
“We’re not actually having negotiations and we’re not seeking to renegotiate,” Bettman said. “We made a number of assumptions collectively over the summer, most of which are not applicable anymore. Whatever the revenues are, the players only get 50 per cent. And if we overpay them and they don’t pay us back in the short term, they have to pay us back over time.
“There will be stresses on the system, and we’ve had discussions about what those stresses are, and how they might be dealt with. But we’re not trying to say ‘You must do X, Y and Z.’ We’re trying to look for ways to continue to work together.”
The NHL has not lost an entire season since the 2004-05 lockout.