By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The NHL and NHLPA took a big step forward Monday.
With frustration the name of the game as time ticks away, and with Jeremy Jacobs among those ‘livid’ at Gary Bettman, the sides opted to ditch any further dialogue regarding financial changes to the Memorandum of Understanding in the CBA and shift their focus to a mid-January start. TSN’s Darren Dreger was the first to report the shift, which has since been confirmed by multiple outlets, and comes with a new projected start date of Jan. 13 in sight.
To be more specific, Jan 13 is the target date for start of season. However, nothing has been finalized. https://t.co/0wzAXlMPnW— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) December 8, 2020
This new dates comes just days after an ESPN report that suggested that the league had zeroed in on a Jan. 15 start date for a season somewhere between 52 and 56 games. Give ’em another two days and you’re likely talking about a season that does get you closer to the 56-game mark, of course. And perhaps most importantly, it would keep the NHL on a schedule that prevents the NHL from reaching into the deeper summer months, which feels like a must with the NHL not wanting to get in the way of the 2021 Olympics and to get themselves back on a normal schedule for the 2021-22 season.
It’s not a perfect situation, with some situations more fluid than others, as noted by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
“Targets include a Jan. 13 start to the season, with non-playoff teams reporting Dec. 28 and others on Jan. 1,” Friedman wrote late Monday night. “No exhibition games appear likely. I believe there is a short-term ‘hub plan’ being worked on just in case, but it is not the preference. The biggest headache might be training camp plans in places like Montreal, San Jose (Arizona?) and Winnipeg, which have strict current restrictions due to COVID-19.”
The league is also still figuring out other issues — player opt-outs, the season schedule, and realignment are just a few of the issues the league needs to hammer out before things can get real — but canning any additional squabbling over the financials in the middle of a pandemic seems to be the best play for both sides involved.
It seems almost certain that the league will begin its season without fans in the stands (there’s been talk of some teams hosting outdoor games to bring fans back into the picture), but with a ‘desire’ to get an agreement done by the week’s end, a 2021 NHL season finally feels within reach.