NHL Struggles With Season Restart, Targets January 13 Opening
The NHL was praised by the public for successfully completing the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs inside two hub cities, Edmonton and Toronto, while regulating over 33,000 COVID-19 tests without a single positive case.
After two months, however, it seems like the league is struggling to get back on track. The COVID-19 pandemic is still a global problem, forcing the league to once again reconsider the 2020-21 timeline. As such, The NHL and NHLPA will have to release their concrete plans in setting up a new season as January approaches, and here are the main considerations on the table:
Timeline And Schedule
A full 82-game season is completely out of the picture at this point. If the league hopes to still play a sizable season with 50 to 60 games and start the season on January 13, then the time to put the plans in motion is now.
The Tokyo Olympics might also affect the schedule of the NHL playoffs. The league reportedly plans to host the playoffs in early to mid July. The Olympics are scheduled to begin on July 23.
Like other leagues, the NHL is also struggling to meet the demands and expectations of its respective players’ association. The league is currently offering the NHLPA two proposals. The first one would see the escrow increase to 25% for the 2020-21 season, while players deferred 20% of their salaries. The second proposal would see a 26% deferral of the player salaries next season, while the escrow stays at 20%.
The NHLPA negotiated and proposed a 20% escrow figure and a 10% deferral of salary, ignoring the two proposals. The NHL, however, has yet to release their answer to this new proposal.
Realignment And Borders
Like in the last season, the NHL will have to consider various protocols in order to create a new season schedule and manage logistics. The border between the United States and Canada, for one, definitely presents some problems. The league managed to avoid this problem last season by proposing two hub cities.
According to multiple reports, it’s more likely that the NHL would plan to execute a temporary league realignment this year to create a division composed of all Canadian teams. The remaining 24 teams in the U.S. would likely be divided into three divisions based on location.