Despite slotting in a 15-day Olympic break in its schedule, the NHL still doesn't have an agreement to play at the Winter Olympics
Big Scheduling Questions Remain for NHL
What’s Happening: The NHL recently released its tentative schedule for the 2021-2022 season and oddly enough, there is a 15-day gap in February that coincides with the 2022 Winter Olympics. This is curious because, as of this moment, there is no agreement in place for NHL players to participate in the upcoming Winter Olympics. Despite not having the green light to participate, the NHL is still leaving the door open to its participation by slotting in this gap. According to a recent ESPN article, the NHL has also released a separate tentative schedule for the 2021-2022 season that does not include an Olympic break. Having two schedules out simultaneously a mere two months before the season is slated to begin is far from ideal, and for teams, making changes to the schedule can often involve rescheduling games due to availability of their own home arenas.
What to Expect: Needless to say, the NHL is going to have to figure out very quickly which schedule they will proceed with since the season is right around the corner. In that same ESPN article, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly is quoted as saying that a decision is likely to come by the end of August. That means that despite having two completely different schedules in their possession, teams will begin to start finalizing plans for locking in their home arena and agreeing to promotional game nights that home fans can get excited about.
Why It Matters: It’s almost unheard of for any professional sports league to release two completely different schedules to teams so close to the start of a season. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected, and this is particularly important because for many teams, they’ll be welcoming full fan capacity back to their home arenas. The NHL is banking that the upcoming season will be as close to normal as they have operated in a few years, and having this Olympic break in the schedule will further produce more complications for teams. Let’s also not take away the fact that COVID is still very much a global pandemic, and it’s unknown how COVID will impact not just the NHL season but also how it might wreak havoc at the Winter Olympics as well.
Simply put, for a league looking to regain some semblance of normalcy, many teams and their plans will remain in limbo for a few more weeks, at least. This can severely impact a team’s ability to secure season-ticket holders, schedule promotional giveaways, and slot in advertisers. We will just have to wait and see how this all unfolds, but judging by how it has gone thus far, this one might come down to the 11th hour.
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