Just a couple of weeks ago, it looked like the NHL season would get started in early January.
Things have become more complicated since then, and now it seems that the start of the season will be further delayed.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman still said on Wednesday that the series is aiming for the start of the season in early January, but in Canadian media, among others, public opinion has turned strongly in the direction that New Year’s Day will inevitably come too early.
Currently, a more realistic start date is considered to be mid-January at the earliest.
Pierre LeBrun, a renowned journalist for TSN and The Athletic, reported on Tuesday that a 16-player sitting in the commission said a currently reasonable date for the start of the season would be between January 20 and early February.
When an agreement at the negotiating table has still not been found, there would be quite a rush until January 1st.
Before that, there should be a training camp of about a couple of weeks in the program, before which players from Europe would have to spend two weeks in quarantine.
The burning stick of contention between the NHL, the owners and the players' association, is money.
In the summer, before the bubble-down games, the parties turned to a six-year extension to the collective agreement.
It also negotiated clauses on pay cuts for the coming period 2020-21.
Recently, however, at Bettman’s mouth, the owners announced they wanted additional cuts to players ’wallets.
Commissioner Gary Bettman represents 31 owners.Photo: Sean Kilpatrick / ZUMA / MVPhotos
The NHL wants to save an additional $ 300 million in costs for next season.
According to media reports, the players were angry about this and even felt betrayed, as the current pandemic situation was already on during the summer negotiations, and at that time it seemed almost clear that the future season could not be carried out normally.
The collective agreement agreed that players would cut their wages for the coming season by ten per cent.
This money “borrowed” to the owners is to be repaid to the players from the period 2022-23.
Now the owners still want an additional cut of up to 16 percent.
In addition, the collective agreement included an upper limit of 20% for the escrow payment for the coming period, ie the amount paid to the owners of the players due to income equalization.
Now the owners want to raise the escrow hated by the players by another five percent, and also raise the agreed escrow ceilings for the following seasons.
It is therefore a complex twist on money and contractual issues.
In addition, the issue to be decided is, for example, how much will be paid if the number of games is significantly lower instead of the normal 82-match regular season.
The torsion has matured so hard that the negotiating relationship between Bettman and players ’association boss Donald Fehr was reported last week, broken even for more than a week.
This week, however, the beakmen have been reported to have been in touch again as part of the talks.
The Athletic says the players' association has remained tough in the negotiations so far, relied on the deal negotiated in the summer, and has refused to come up against it further.
Some owners have reportedly been in favor of canceling the entire season, and the possibility of a lockout period has even been raised in public.
However, it is still considered very unlikely.
During the term of the collective agreement, the lockout would be illegal, but it has been suggested to the public that if the players' association does not bend to further cuts, owners could invoke the force majeure clause in the collective agreement due to unforeseen pandemic conditions.
Playing for empty spectators would be expensive for the NHL anyway.
The Hockey League is in a very different situation, for example, with larger series compared to the NFL and the NBA, as they have much more money-making TV contracts.
The NHL would desperately need money from the box office.
Last season was played in the playoffs in Edmonton and Toronto. Photo: Jason Franson / ZUMA / MVPhotos
The problem with the NHL right now is not just a twist on money.
It has been pointed out in the North American media that due to the ever-worsening corona situation on the continent, some of the teams might not even be able to open their training places when camps start, even if they wished.
In the U.S., daily new infection counts have recently ranged from 150,000 to 200,000.
In Canada, too, infection rates have risen sharply recently, now at a rate of around 5,000 to 6,000 per day.
According to media reports, the NHL’s current plan at the moment is for all 31 teams to start the season instead of the tournament bubble in their hometowns - naturally in empty halls.
However, there is also an option on the table for a “hybrid bubble” where teams would arrive to play games, for example, for two weeks at a time.
Another problem is the closed border between Canada and the United States.
The NHL is believed to solve this dilemma in a division between seven Canadian teams.
If the border remained closed throughout the season, and crossing it would mean mandatory quarantine, the Canadians might even play the entire regular season with each other.
Thus, three divisions of eight teams would be formed on the U.S. side.
It should also be clear that the normal 82-match Regular Series is no longer possible.
The game has previously featured 60 game-long series.
For comparison: due to lockouts, during the 48-match periods of 1994-95 and 2012-13, the regular season started on 19-20.
January, and the playoffs ended on June 24th.
According to media reports, the NHL would have set a deadline for the upcoming season in mid-July just before the start of the Tokyo Olympics.
NBC owns TV rights for both the NHL and the Olympics in the United States, and it reportedly does not want these to run on top of each other.
Bettman last announced on Wednesday that the NHL is aiming to return to normal for the period 2021-22, which would mean it will begin in the fall.