Time Runs Short For NHL January 1 Start Date
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and last season’s irregular schedule, the NHL heads to December without a concrete plan announced for next season. There’s uncertainty in the air, so it’s safe to assume that the league is running out of time to start the 2021 season on January 1 as previously planned.
The league and the NHLPA still need to figure out player salaries, realignment, and the final start date. Fortunately, the two parties already agreed to a long-term extension of the collective bargaining agreement signed last summer to get the NHL through the pandemic. In addition, team owners and general managers are ready for whatever news and decision the NHL will bring.
“The landscape is — there’s a lot of unknowns associated with where we’re going in the immediate future…Hopefully things, with all the positive news associated with vaccines and a hopeful climate that could potentially exist that we get back on track. But we have some ground to cover,” said Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney.
“What starts with me is: Let’s get the season started,” Nashville general manager David Poile said. “I’m up for however it looks. Whatever the league and the PA think is the best way to get us back playing, whether it’s with fans, some fans, no fans, TV being (more) relevant if you will. Whatever it takes to get this season going and get it in place.”
With the clock ticking, let’s take a look at the NHL’s tentative plans ahead of the holiday season:
- Player Salaries — The NHL and NHLPA chose not to announce salary negotiations publicly. But assuming the next season will have games shorter than the 82-game format, players could resist pro-rated salaries while escrow amounts increase. Previous reports confirmed that the league asked players to increase escrow caps and salary deferrals to 20% or 26%.
- Realignment — The NHL plans to make a division made up of seven teams based in Canada. The teams will hail from Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver.
- Start Date — As of the moment, the NHL and NHLPA are targeting January 1 as the start date. They need to consider the training camps and the 50 to 70 game-format for each team. To follow the previously given timeline, the Stanley Cup should probably be awarded before the Tokyo Summer Olympics opens on July 23.