The NHL is still targeting a January start for the upcoming season, but there is still a lot of work to be done between the league and NHLPA. As reported by Nick Cotsonika of NHL.com, Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke Tuesday about some of the things still being discussed, including the idea of hubs where teams would enter a city and “play for 10 to 12 days” without any travel, and then return home. Players have been very clear about the fact that they will not agree to a season-long bubble away from their families, and Bettman confirmed that he will not ask them to do so.
The idea of realignment has also come up extensively around the hockey world in recent weeks, especially in regard to the seven Canadian teams. Bettman confirmed that it was being discussed, although he specifically mentioned how it also wouldn’t make much sense to have teams from Florida travel to California either. A “Canadian Division” is getting plenty of headlines, but it seems likely that there will be other geographical realignments as well considering the different restrictions throughout the United States.
Of course one of the most important things for the league to decide will be how many games actually get played in the upcoming regular season. Even though the NHL has tried to maintain the goal of fitting in 82, there have been obvious doubts that is practical and Bettman himself suggested that the league is contemplating a reduced schedule.
None of what Bettman said on Tuesday provides any real answers for hockey fans looking forward to next season, but there are hints to what it might look like. Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia also reports that deputy commissioner Bill Daly sent a memo to each NHL team on Tuesday saying that the league and NHLPA hope to make a recommendation to the board of governors on Thursday on the start date, maintaining that “the objective remains to start as early as Jan. 1.” The memo included that the league is hoping to get back onto a regular calendar for 2021-22.