As daunting as the challenge is of getting a new season off the ground in the midst of a pandemic, the NBA hasn’t let the current COVID climate deter it from forging ahead with plans to start up a modified, but still robust, 2020-21 season.
LeBron James and the Lakers might have defeated the Heat in the NBA Finals just a month ago, but the NBA already has the gears turning on a new 72-game campaign that will begin on Dec. 22 — with critical offseason dates such as the NBA Draft (Nov. 18) and the start of free agency (Nov. 20) quickly approaching.
The NHL managed to wrap up its 2019-20 campaign back on Sept. 28 when the Lightning hoisted the Stanley Cup up in the Edmonton bubble, but other than a declaration of a targeted start date of Jan. 1, 2021 — we haven't heard much in terms of concrete details about what to expect from the league's upcoming season.
With most of the dust settled from a stagnant free-agent market and a number of other critical offseason dates now come and gone, it would appear as though most parties involved with the revival of NHL hockey in 2021 are currently in a holding pattern — waiting for the powers at be to chart a course toward an augmented season.
But for the first time in a long time, we finally received some additional insight into what the 2021 NHL season might look like — as commissioner Gary Bettman discussed a number of potential new protocols and major tweaks while speaking at the 2020 Paley International Council Summit alongside MLB's Rob Manfred and the NBA's Adam Silver this week.
To the shock of very few (especially those in the NHLPA), a season-long "bubble" environment is not on the table as a realistic option when it comes to keeping this new season chugging along without any major outbreaks or other disruptions.
But that also doesn't mean it's a given that teams are just going to be playing in their own empty barns once the puck is officially dropped in 2021.