By Ian Oland
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Chris Johnston spoke with David Amber to talk about the latest developments between the NHL and the NHLPA on Friday.
While Friedman repeated his earlier report that the players and the league are focusing on a 52-56 game regular season, he did share a a bit of new news. Friedman says the NHL is not expected to have any exhibition games before the start of the new season.
Johnston added that while the players and owners want to play in their home arenas, the league may be forced to begin the season in a bubble or hubs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Elliotte Friedman: Basically, what we can tell you is, resuming on Thursday, the NHL/NHLPA went into some significant nuts and bolts about what the next season could look like. And basically what were proposed were two schedules starting on January 15th – one 52 games, one 56. I think the preference on both sides is 56. Basically, it would go January 15th. The regular season would end around May 1st. There would be room there in case they had to make up games. The whole season, with the Stanley Cup handed out, would be be sometime between June 30th and July 7th. That’s what they’re looking at right now. For teams that didn’t make the playoffs, teams would report on December 28th. For those who did the make the playoffs, January. It’s also possible, I’m told, we may see no exhibition games. That may not happen at all. There’s a lot being discussed. Put it this way, players and even some teams were notified… Players were kinda told ‘Be aware of the possibility of a January 15 puck drop.’ Some teams were notified that they should be ready for some news in the next few days.
Chris Johnston: I think if you’re looking for even more optimism, it went Thursday night through Friday because the league and the NHL Players’ Association continued their talks Friday. I think, most notably, they kept the economic issues to the side so they’re dealing with everything else. The huge number of logistical things they have to tackle to get ready for this season amid a pandemic, where this second wave is worse than the first one. The tenor of those talks has been good. The league and the players have got to a nice spot where whether it’s the scheduling issues or the health protocols, all of the various issues – even some of the rules that have to be put in place – I think that’s a pretty workable situation. It’s just the very contentious issue of economics and how this all is going to work that is still on the sideline and not being touched at this moment.
[Playing in a bubble or hubs], that plan is very much on the table. That’s being contemplated. I should make it clear, the preference of the owners and the players to do this with each team playing out of their own city and their home arena. That just might not be possible with a mid-January start because of what we’ve seen with the COVID numbers and the spread. Probably notably, some restrictions in various jurisdictions being ramped up. At this moment, the Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets don’t have their practice facility for their players. San Jose, we’ve seen some things brought in Santa Clara county that forced the 49’ers to move to Arizona. I think it’s understood, while mid-January is the ideal target to get this season in, it might get pushed to a later date because of COVID. That’s the thing the league and players don’t have any control over.
Elliotte Friedman: There’s the things you control and the things you don’t. What we don’t control, we’ll have to deal with. That’s just life. But you have to be prepared and say, ‘Okay if we can control or we are allowed to do things, how are we going to do it.’ And that’s what they’re looking at. I do think there is a possibility that the first couple weeks of the season begin in hubs. And then eventually you move to your arenas. I don’t think it’s what the teams and the league want, but I think they have to be prepared for that kind of possibility. I think all those things are on the table. I wouldn’t be shocked, for example, if San Jose followed the San Francisco 49’ers into Arizona. I think that would actually make a lot of sense. I think what you can say, this is what we know, this is what we don’t know, and here is how we have to attack what we know. I think the other thing is if you wait, and we’re already losing two weeks from where the league wanted to start, it increases the chances that if the vaccination is transmitted, and sent out, and works as well as people hope, you could have fans in the building, later in the regular season or for the playoffs. So all of this is the kind of thing where you’re saying, ‘We have control over it, not really. But we can best prepare for it the only way we know how.’
On Saturday, Friedman also tweeted out that the league could begin its season as soon as January 13 if all goes well in negotiations and a 60-game season is possible but unlikely.
Tougher to get a strong grip on economic discussions. Obviously very sensitive. Players have made it clear they will not touch 6 per cent escrow cap in final three years or CBA…We will see on deferring money….both sides working at it
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) December 5, 2020
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk/RMNB
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