With the NBA now moving full speed ahead with a late-December start for its 2020-21 season, the pressure is building for the NHL and NHLPA to get its COVID-impacted campaign off the ground within the next few months.
As has been the case for over a month, concrete details are sparse when it comes to the league’s intentions beyond a tentative start date of Jan. 1, 2021 (an edict set down waaaay back on Oct. 6) — while talk of measures such as short-term “hubs” or drastic realignments are offered more as conjecture at this stage than tangible initiatives.
But not all has been quiet on the NHL front when it comes to both the league and players association initiating the necessary dialogue needed to realize this augmented season.
Over the past week, both the NHL and NHLPA have been engaged on daily calls regarding the upcoming 2021 season, according to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic, while a 16-player Return To Play (RTP) committee has also been holding regular meetings, albeit not with the league.
According to LeBrun, the 16 players featured in the RTP committee are: David Backes, Darren Helm, David Savard, Justin Faulk, Lars Eller, Sam Gagner, Justin Abdelkader, Ian Cole, Zach Hyman, Ron Hainsey, Claude Giroux, Ryan Dzingel, Andrew Copp, Alex Biega, Chris Kreider and Mark Scheifele.
So far, it appears as though these wide-ranging discussions, while far from complete, are yielding some results (and concessions) that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise — whether it be a shortened number of games (almost a necessity at this point, given the compressed scheduled), an All-Canadian division and other regional-based realignments.
But if all parties involved are still fixated on a Jan. 1 start date, these discussions are going to have to pick up some steam — and start generating some established parameters — if the league really expects to open up training camp as soon as mid-December.
Of course, finding all that common ground in a timely manner is easier said than done — given the amount of safety protocols, schedule tweaking, travel adjustments and heaps of other details that must be ironed out in the coming weeks.
But, of course, there lies another major (and all-too familiar) point of consternation between both the NHL and NHLPA — one that could cause these already arduous negotiations to hit another snag.