It's anyone's guess with the new National Hockey League season will begin.
However, there's some chance the puck could be dropped as early as New Years Day 2021.
At least publicly, the league hopes to start and complete a full 82-game season. But that shot on goal seems overly optimistic given the COVID-related health and safety crisis, which now appears to be worsening as the Northern Hemisphere enters winter time, which is trending up in the number of cases in both Canada and the United States. Clearly, there are a number of hurdles that still must be cleared before we can get opening night.
Back in October, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman insisted Jan. 1st was within the realm of possibilities:
Aside from logistical questions that include testing, protocols, divisional alignment, travel, and spectators, much of the decision making will come down to a familiar subject: MONEY.
Management and players both agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement back in July. Players agreed to defer some parts of their salary and scheduled increases were placed into escrow.
Meanwhile, on Monday morning, NHL Director of Hockey Operations Nick Kypreos tweeted that the league and NHLPA had no dialogue this weekend for the first time weeks. He added that the players have "no choice but to sit and wait." If the season is pushed back to a February 1 start or later, that could result in a 48-game season, according to Kypreos.
Then, there's also the big question about what sort of bubble (if any) will utilized, as was the case when the 2019-20 season resumed during the summer. That seems like a safe bet, but would players agree to isolation for six months, possibly longer?
What is for certain is – we're ready for some hockey. However it comes, let's do it safe and do it right. Fortunately, the NHL has been here before and came through with flying colors. Let's go for a hat trick.
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