COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing across Canada and the United States, with the NHL reiterating in a Board of Governors teleconference update Thursday that the start date for the 2021 season is January 1st.
Nothing is written on the stone – in format or start date – and the clock will temporarily start with training camps within a month of the start of New Year’s Day.
The executive board of their own NHL Players’ Association on Thursday did not provide a date for players to report to the respective cities, which conducted a teleconference update.
According to sources in both calls, the most obvious update is the growing appetite for teams to open the 2021 season in each of their home areas rather than “hybrid” bubbles.
NHL Commissioner Gary Betman discussed the proposed hybrid bubbles earlier this week, the concept TSN Reported back in September. They were an avenue for the return of hockey.
However, stating that there are significant costs involved in operating the balloons in addition to the revenue lost with games displayed on neutral sites, it is preferred for each team to travel from city to city to complete a brief regular season. Both the NFL and the MLB have handled their seasons that way. The NHL has spent $ 75 million to $ 90 million to inflate the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs in Edmonton and Toronto.
The City-to-City 2021 schedule includes temporary divisional realignments, including a one-off, All-Canadian division – which serious hockey fans may consider the only gift of the epidemic. (Good luck guessing the ending order of the division!)
Teams are allowed to have fans in their respective fields with limited abilities as prescribed by local and regional health officials. In addition to reclaiming arena signals and advertising revenue through regional broadcasts, it also allows teams to earn marginal gate revenue in the hopes of expanding capabilities as the season moves on and the vaccine becomes more prevalent.
Teams are more likely to go to divisional opponents to play smaller series games, with two back-to-back games according to the baseball schedule or three games in four nights before going to the next stop. This takes away travel and player time away from families.
The only certainty for the 2021 season is that it is not an 82-game slate. There is no sense in having a table that has a full-length regular season. There are many schedule models ranging from 60 or 62 games to 56 and up to 48 games, with a minimum requirement for the length traditionally accepted in previous lockout-short campaigns.
With the short season ahead, NHL players are committed to a salary incentive. Only 72 per cent of their declared salary is due for the 2021 season, 20 per cent of the 2019-20 season losses will be reimbursed to the employers, with an additional 10 per cent salary deferred. (This is 72 percent because it’s 20 percent at the top and minus 10 percent at the remaining 80 percent.)
To date, no proposals have been introduced from the NHL to the NHLPA – and financial matters have not been discussed at the call of the Board of Governors – but NHLPA members are expected to seek an increase in pay over the coming season rather than promotion.
It does not change the money paid to the players, only when they are paid, and it becomes a very tasty option for union membership. Instead of assisting owners’ cash flow outside of July’s approved collective bargaining agreement, NHL players will be asked to repay the prize.
You can see what it is. Nearly every financial projection sees players’ debt to employers increase to $ 1 billion after the 2021 season based on the 50-50 revenue split created by the system between players and employers.
Unknown equals course in 2020.
As cases rise across the continent, lockdowns will begin as they did in Manitoba on Thursday – meetings will be largely limited to members of the household. All athletics facilities were closed and the Jets needed an exemption to conduct a training camp in Winnipeg in mid-December.
While this is a big deal at the moment, many governors and employers are wondering if the February 1 opening date is more realistic.
The NHL is focused on the January 1 opening date, as the league is ideal for giving away the Stanley Cup by mid-July. The end of mid-summer will not only allow US television claimant NBC to roll out coverage ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, but also allow the NHL to re-launch the more traditional slate for the 2021-22 season – especially with the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics planned to disrupt that season schedule in February.
Mike Tyson famously said: “Everyone has a plan until they punch him in the face.”
By this time, the NHL and the NHLPA had not officially done so, fully knowing that the punch was coming in with a second coronavirus wave orbiting the continent.
Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: ranfrank_seravalli