One of the things that the New York Rangers might have to prepare for in getting ready for the 2020-21 season in a reduced number of games. According to some sources, according to Sportsnet.ca, is that the NHL is looking to play a season that could be as few as 56 games to as many as 72. It does not appear that the league is ready to play a full schedule as in past years, as the sources say that the NHL wants to award the Stanley Cup around July 15.
This is also going on the assumption that the league continues to target January 1 as a start date, and that the league may employ “mini-hubs” as a way to start the season and reduce the impact that COVID-19 might have on starting or finishing a season.
According to TSN.ca and their NHL insider Pierre LeBrun, there are now 16 players on the Return to Play committee, as compared to the Return to Play committee last spring that was made up of five players.
LeBrun adds that it appears the committee is working in a different fashion compared to the one from last spring, working more internally with the NHL Players’ Association as the PA and NHL engage in higher-level communication. Even though the NHLPA has indicated its desire to play the full 82-game schedule, that would take the league into late August, which does not seem likely.
The more than likely scenario would be that the NHL would adopt a schedule that would likely be modeled on the 2020 MLB season in which travel was limited through geographical play.Â Dates would have to be left open, either in season or following the targeted end date, to accommodate postponements and/or accommodate breaks from the mini-hubs that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman alluded to in a conference call on Tuesday.
NHLPA executive board call (31 player reps) is done. Was really an update call. Same for NHL Governors call today, was an update. The NHL did reiterate on the call that Jan. 1 remains target date to open the season but also acknowledged on the call it was subject to change.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) November 12, 2020
One of the issues around a shortened season is player salaries. The CBA extension last summer agreeing to 72 percent of their gross pay for the upcoming season. The NHLPA feels this number is set whether they play one game or 70-something games. However, owners feel those salaries should be prorated, especially if thereâ€™s no clear path to attendance, something that is less likely to happen as number spike throughout the country.
The expectation is that the league will propose prorating. It is unknown whether that would be coupled with a threat not to play unless the union makes a concession. It is also unknown how NHLPA would respond to such a situation, but the union has been aware of this possibility for some time.
There has been speculation that if a January 1 start date is set, teams would want to have training camps set for around December 15, with the seven teams that did not make last year’s playoffs having a few extra days of camp.
Regardless, the NHL and the NHLPA will have a very busy month ahead if they want to start on January 1.