The NHL offseason has essentially wrapped up. There will be a few signings here and there from some teams. Teams are going to try and under pay their players to save some money. And those players are going to try to get the money they deserve from their team in contract arbitrations. A few teams are dealing with that, luckily the Avalanche won’t be. Joe Sakic and company have gotten all the Avs contracts signed and look ready for the next season. The thing is, no season has been announced.
As of now the NHL hasn’t set anything in stone. The NHL and NHLPA pushed back the initial start date from December 1st to January 1st. They announced that back in October. Which makes sense. Hockey is an extremely physical sport and players need to recover from the season. The 2019-2020 season ended on September 28th. If the NHL would have started on December 1st it would be a 71 day offseason. Just a 10 week offseason. Normally it’s about a 118 day offseason. 71 days is incredibly short for such a physical sport. Which means NHL fans will have to wait even longer for hockey to grace their televisions.
Hopefully NHL fans won’t have to wait too much longer. September 28th 2020 to January 1st 2021 isn’t that long without the NHL. Unless you’re a fan of one of the 7 teams that didn’t make the playoffs. Then you’ve waited to watch your team since March 12th. That actually is a long time without your favorite hockey team. Sorry to the fans of those seven teams. It really does suck to suck.
If the NHL were to plan for a traditional 118ish day offseason the start date for the 2020-21 season would be on January 18th. The league is tentatively planning on a January 1st start date, however. So the season will be here sooner rather than later.
Even though the season is coming sooner rather than later it still feels like a long ways out. Especially when you consider the NHL hasn’t made any concrete plans. Unlike the NBA, which has a concrete plan and announced their season will start December 22nd. According to NHL deputy commissioner, Bill Daly, it isn’t feasible to have concrete plans just yet.
“It’s premature to be drawing up plans [when] you don’t have a real good idea as to whether they’re practical, feasible or going to be put in place,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN last week. “At some point, we have to do it. But I think to this point, it’s been the general sentiment that we don’t know enough yet to get more granular than we’ve been.” Greg Wyshynski ESPN
So according to the NHL they don’t have enough information to have a plan. Which, again, makes sense. The NHL wants teams to be playing in their own stadiums, not hub stadiums, and there isn’t enough information available on whether or not that is a possibility. The NHL wants fans in the stands too. Obviously the NFL is playing in their own stadiums this year, some of them even have fans. Others don’t. It just depends on which state allows fans in the stadiums and which don’t. The NHL will have to navigate around those states just like the NFL is. The NHL wants, and needs, fans in the stands. They don’t know if that is how they will start the season, but it is how they want to finish it.
“I think the ultimate goal is to end up with fans in the arenas. I don’t think we’ll get to capacity, but I think we’ll have enough socially distanced fans,” said an NHL source. Greg Wyshynski ESPN
The NHL wants teams to play in their own stadiums with fans in attendance. That’s obvious. The league needs to make up for all the lost revenue of the last season any way they can. Making up lost revenue is the likely reason for so many new NHL jerseys being released this year. Yet the easiest way to make some more money would be to get fans in the stands. Besides making up for lost revenue the NHL has another hurdle they have to get over. How the hell to do travel safely.
The NHL has to travel from the U.S. to Canada and back repeatedly. Whether or not Canada will let that happen is still up in the air. Canada didn’t allow the Toronto Blue Jays to travel to and from Canada during the MLB season. So it’s reasonable to think they wouldn’t let the Canadian teams do it for hockey. Though hockey is taken more seriously in Canada than baseball. So maybe they would, who knows, the NHL doesn’t seem to know as of now.
The NHL doesn’t know if teams will be allowed to fly from the United States in to Canada. If teams aren’t allowed to travel to Canada then the six Canadian teams will be trapped in the Great White North. There is a plan around that, but it would be easier if the teams could travel normally and play every team. Not just teams in their region. Or country in this instance.
While the NHL might not know exactly what is happening there is still a sense of urgency on figuring out when the season will start.
“But having said that, there would be — and is — some urgency on behalf of clubs and arenas to know whether that is something they need to prepare for or not. So, you know, I think everybody understands there’s a certain level of urgency to get something planned, but you don’t want to be premature in planning,” [Bill Daly] said. Greg Wyshyski ESPN
The NHL is urgently trying to get a return to play plan finished. Bill Daly doesn’t think it will take nearly as long to get a return to play deal done as the last time either. This new plan won’t take as long because it’s not as complicated as the last one. The last return to play plan was complicated because it was also linked to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Now that a new CBA is in place the NHL can focus on what is important. Playing in home stadiums in front of home fans.
While the NHL is urgently trying to come back hockey fans will just have to sit back and wait. Right now the NHL is trending for a January 1st start. So if things go well we will only have to wait another two months for the hockey to start back up. What the NHL season will look like when it starts is still up in the air. It could be a full 82 game season, it could not, but hockey will return.
There is still hockey to watch. Some of the European leagues are playing right now. But damn are they hard to watch. Not because there are no talented players in the leagues. There is plenty of talent. It’s just really hard to find anywhere to watch them. Trust me. I spent over an hour trying to find a Swedish Liiga game so I could watch the Avalanche’s prospect goaltender. The time change also makes it pretty hard to watch.