By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor
For the last two weeks, there has been a lot of tension between the NHL and NHLPA over the financial aspect of a return for the 2020-21 season. After several days without much communication, both sides have been back in touch daily, and Thursday’s discussions brought about the most productive developments to this point.
With the calendar turned to December, the Jan. 1 target date is no longer realistic to open the 2020-21 season. Instead, the NHL has proposed a mid-January start to the season, according to a report from TSN’s Frank Seravalli.
The two sides discussed options for how the season could look, including a potential schedule structure. Both 52 and 56-game schedules were discussed as options, though both sides have a preference to play 56 games.
Training camps would open on Jan. 2, though that is still a flexible date. A seven-day voluntary camp for the seven teams that did not play in the bubble in the summer is still on the table.
The potential start date in mid-January also includes the previously discussed potential end date for the season. The league still wants to complete the season by early July so that there are no scheduling and broadcast conflicts with the Summer Olympics and to set the 2021-22 season on track for a normal schedule cycle. This is critical to the league with the addition of the Seattle Kraken as the 32nd NHL team set to begin next season.
Obviously, the two factors that will determine if this goes anywhere is the financial issues and COVID-19. The NHL and NHLPA pushed the financial issues aside in this discussion on Thursday. COVID-19 presents a fluid and needs to be flexible with any timeline.
That said, there is finally some concrete details emerging and it appears the NHL has a plan for how the season will look. They just need to overcome the financial issues and find a way to safely get teams back on the ice.