NHL targeting mid-January for starting new season

The NHL and the players’ union have reportedly made progress in their talks to begin the 2020-21 season, and are now aiming for a Jan. 15 start, with training camps opening Dec. 26 for the Ducks, Kings and five other teams did not qualify for the Return to Play last summer.

The season could be between 52 and 56 games, rather than the usual 82, with the Stanley Cup awarded in late June or early July, long before NBC has to shift its focus from hockey to the Tokyo Olympics, several reports said. . Friday.

The league is also committed to closing the upcoming season as close to its usual early June date as possible to prepare for the 2021-22 season, when it hopes to play its traditional 82-game schedule between October 1 and April 15. . welcomes the expansion Seattle Kraken as its 32nd team.

“I think this is the most important thing: what we’re focused on is trying to get through the 2021 season so we can be back in position for 2021-22 to (return to) normalcy,” said NHL Commissioner Gary. Bettman on Wednesday a forum on sports affairs in New York.

There are still many issues to be resolved before an agreement can be finalized, including the economics of a shortened season likely to be contested with no fan presence at a time of heightened restrictions due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in North America .

In fact, the pandemic is so alarming that the start of the season could be further delayed, perhaps delayed to February 1, with the guidance of health officials. The league is said to be hopeful of starting games in home arenas, but could start in hub cities as a fallback option.

Last season closed after a 4 1/2 month hiatus due to the initial breakout, with 24 teams playing in strict bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton. Neither the owners nor the players want to revert to a bubble format, but they can be forced to play in four or more hub cities.

While it had not yet been formalized, the league was expected to temporarily realign the four divisions starting Friday, setting up a full of the seven Canadian teams, as the US border remains closed to much-needed travel.

In the Pacific Division, for example, the league would replace Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver with Colorado, Dallas, and either Minnesota or St. Louis to complete a division of eight teams comprising the Ducks, Kings, Arizona Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights.

League and players union representatives discussed a January 15 start date at a conference call Thursday evening, but did not discuss changing the economy for the coming season, which would be the biggest stumbling block to an agreement.

The players have refused to accept further salary concessions after agreeing to an extension of the collective bargaining agreement with the league in July until the end of 2025-2026. The players agreed to some salary deferments that would ease the financial blow of the league.

Negotiations were to continue on Friday.