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Volume 26 No. 179
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New Scenario Sees NHL Pushing Start Of Next Season To December

Plans are to conduct a full 82-game schedule for the ’20-21 season even if it starts in December
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Plans are to conduct a full 82-game schedule for the ’20-21 season even if it starts in December
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Plans are to conduct a full 82-game schedule for the ’20-21 season even if it starts in December
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The NHL is discussing with its teams the idea of “delaying the start of next season into December” as it looks to complete the '19-20 season, according to TSN's Pierre LeBrun. Plans are to conduct a full 82-game schedule for the '20-21 season “even if it starts in December.” However, the league “doesn’t know yet if or when it can resume this season and how long it’s willing to go to end this season.” The “most important factor” in delaying the start of '20-21 would regard fan attendance, as there are a “lot of teams that when next season comes, whenever that is, need fans in the building.” LeBrun said, “It’s a gate-driven league. It’s one thing to finish the playoffs this year without fans. But they’re going to need revenue next year” (“Insider Trading,” TSN, 4/28). LeBrun added that a December start would result in “wiping out All-Star weekend, the bye weeks, shortening the Christmas holiday break and basically tightening the entire schedule matrix wherever possible.” The regular season under this scenario would run “into May and playoffs into July” (THEATHLETIC.com, 4/28).

TOO MUCH AT STAKE NOT TO TRY: NHL Network’s Elliotte Friedman said the NHL and its players are "going to do anything they can to try and play at least the rest" of this season. Friedman: "It’s not like we’re going to be defying anybody who’s in a position of power and says you can't do that. ... But if they get some clearance to do it, I believe they’re going to do anything they can to try to play” ("NHL Tonight," NHL Network, 4/28). TSN's Bob McKenzie reaffirmed that there is “no doubt” that the NHL is “trying desperately” to put together a regular season and postseason. He said, "There'll be huge rebates going back to regional and national broadcasters if they don’t play any regular season games and playoffs" ("Our Line Starts," NBCSPORTS.com, 4/29). In L.A., Helene Elliott notes the NHL has "too much at stake to scrap the season before it evaluates every potential option." Its projected $5B in revenues will stall at $3.9B "without additional games and playoffs," and that shortfall "will squeeze many franchises." Additionally, the league's "chances of landing the multi-network TV contract it hoped for starting with the 2021-22 season could be damaged the longer it's away" (L.A. TIMES, 4/29).

NO FOR OTTAWA, YES FOR TAMPA? In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch writes it is "unlikely Canadian Tire Centre and the nearby [Bell] Sensplex would be considered" as hosts sites for games. One of the "concerns the NHL has about Ottawa is hotel space and proximity to the rink for housing the teams that would be involved." If the NHL "really is going to bring back players to play in empty rinks, they want to house them as close to the arena as possible" (OTTAWA SUN, 4/29). In Tampa, Diana Nearhos writes the city "has the facilities in place." Nearhos: "The NHL knows Amalie Arena well from the 2018 All-Star Game and 2015 Stanley Cup final. The arena's NCAA championship events (including Frozen Fours and the Women’s Final Four) demonstrate its capacity for multi-team events with five total dressing rooms. There also are another six sheets of ice available for practices, between the TGH Ice Plex in Brandon and AdventHealth Center Ice in Wesley Chapel." Tampa "certainly has downtown hotel availability," and it is "not a coronavirus hotspot, especially compared to other NHL cities of similar sizes." Nearhos cautions there is "one major issue with Amalie Arena hosting multiple hockey games a day: weather." Tampa is "hot and humid in the summer, and it could be challenging to maintain ice conditions" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 4/29). 

TOUGH SELL TO PLAYERS? Canadiens C Phillip Danault, on ideas which would see all teams playing at four centralized locations, said, "It really makes no sense, in my head, to distance myself for two months from my kid. And I imagine it makes even less sense for those who would go far in the playoffs, who are on playoff teams right now. If a team goes to the Stanley Cup final, it could be three to four months. It’s inhumane to do that, as far as I’m concerned. ... I imagine the players will have to vote on it -- and I’m not sure they’ll be in favour of being away from family for two-to-three months" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 4/29).