The NHL is no longer trying to tweak the collective bargaining agreement that was signed in July, so the league and the players’ union are now focused on one thing: putting together tricky details that will enable the season to be played in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic.
The league is hopeful of starting the season Jan. 13 and playing 56 games.
But lots of details have to be agreed upon, including whether to play games in home arenas or have a “bubble” for each of the four divisions — and what those newly created divisions will look like this season.
Other decisions need to be made about roster sizes; dates for the start of training camps, the trade deadline, and the playoffs; and COVID-19 testing and safety measures.
One of the divisions will be composed of all seven Canadian teams because of the closure of the Canada/U.S. border due to the pandemic. The Flyers would be in one of the three divisions that each have eight teams.
If games are played in home arenas, local governing bodies will decide whether some fans can attend, based on health conditions in that area.
When players return from their homes for the start of training camp, which could start in early January, there will be a league-recommended quarantine period depending on the circumstances of travel, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Inquirer.
“That’s all set in our health protocols as it was over the summer,” Daly said. “Additionally, each jurisdiction may have its own quarantine requirements, depending on the location. Obviously, those must be followed as well.”
Daly said there will not be a “one size fits all” rule in regard to the length of quarantines players must go through before reporting to camp.
With some owners saying they may not be able to recover from lost revenue if fans aren’t allowed in arenas, the NHL had wanted the players to agree to raise the cap on salary escrows and to defer more of their salaries.
The players balked, saying both sides signed a CBA extension in July, knowing a 2020-21 season without fans was possible because of the virus.
The NHL has since backed off on its request to alter the CBA, and it is trying to start the season in a little over a month. The more games that are played, the more revenue will be made because of TV contracts.
If the virus pushed the season’s start to early February, teams would probably play just a 48-game schedule.