Recently, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the targeted start date of January 1 for the NHL and the New York Rangers is a “work in progress”.Â Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of work to done and not a lot of time left to finish it if the league and the Blueshirts want to ring in 2021 by starting their season.
One of the issues is money. Recently, the NHL asked the players to defer more salary past this season beyond the 10 percent already agreed to last summer. The players have balked at this. As of Wednesday, the NHLPA had not offered anything to alter what was agreed to in the June Memo of Understanding defining the parameters of the CBA extension.
Speaking at the Sports Business Journal’s “Dealmakers in Sport” panel on Wednesday, Bettman said the pandemic is a huge factor in its plans for the upcoming campaign. Bettman also said Wednesday that he didn’t view their talks as a renegotiation, but rather the “system’s going to be impacted” and that needs to be addressed in order to return to play amid these extraordinary circumstances.
Here is Gary Bettman in full on why he doesn't view the NHL's recent pitch to the NHLPA as a renegotiation of the previously agreed to MOU. pic.twitter.com/57eyZyxhBp
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) December 2, 2020
Then there is the reason the Rangers, the NHL, and sports leagues around the world are in a state of flux, the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was addressed by the commissioner on Wednesday when he said “COVID is going through a second wave, which could be worse than the first wave, and between Thanksgiving and the aftermath and what they think is going to happen for Christmas and the aftermath, we are taking our time and making sure as we look to ways to move forward, we are focused on health and safety and doing the right things.”
Bettman said the league is focused on safely navigating this season, pinning its hopes to the widespread distribution of a vaccine as a way to return to business as usual next fall.
“We are hopeful and optimistic based on everything we are hearing that we can get back to normalcy in ’21-22,” said Bettman.
Of course, Bettman is seeing what is happening in the NFL, as numerous players contracting the virus has wreaked havoc in the schedule.
Then there is the recent news that 48 out of 546 NBA players have tested positive for COVID-19 in the initial testing phase from Nov. 24-30. The NBA is attempting to start their season on December 22.
The final barrier to starting the season on January 1 is the holidays.
Brian Burke @Burkie2020 just said on radio the players "have dug in on Christmas, they're not giving up Christmas with their families." If true (and I believe it) border corssing/quarantining can't begin till Dec. 26, or 27th, camps would open 14 days later.
— Kevin McGran (@kevin_mcgran) December 2, 2020
A mid to late January start is looking more realistic and likely.