Mark Your Calendar for Jan. 13

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One Big Thing: Mark Your Calendar for Jan. 13

What’s Happening: Though there’s still some work to be done, the financial block that threatened the 2021 season is mostly clear. The NHL is preparing for a Jan. 13 start

Tell Me More: Last time we saw professional hockey in action, things were going pretty well, at least by 2020 standards. The league managed to schedule games, maneuver players and run more than 33,000 COVID-19 tests without even one confirmed infection. Players and fans expected we’d be in for a quick turnaround and a new season in December or early January at the latest. 

BUT BUT BUT, in a very 2020 twist, financial hiccups ensued. The league and the NHL Players Association have been in a contract negotiation stalemate for the majority of the offseason, and those negotiations delayed the new season. 

Money Talks: According to insider reports, the NHL and the owners wanted players to agree to an additional 16% salary deferral and a 5% escrow cap before the start of the 2021 season. This came as a surprise to players, who thought they’d already agreed to a 20% escrow cap and 10% salary deferral in July. Negotiations pretty much came to a screeching halt, pretty fast. 

The NHL blinked first, though, and decided to leave the agreement as it was in July and focus on the infinite logistical challenges of the coming season. The NHL is reportedly working on a stimulus package that would help team owners stay afloat. 

Zoom Out: As the league zeroes in on those logistical hurdles, finding a place to play is front of mind. Last season, the NHL formed a playoff bubble, but since players said that bubble experience was “miserable” and one even told CBS Sports that they’d rather cancel the season than spend four months in a bubble, it’s not likely the league will go that route this time. 

(@tbllightning) Tampa will begin its title defense in January.

The NHL could end up realigning teams into temporary divisions instead. Those divisions would reduce travel, keeping Canadian teams together while borders are closed and limiting miles for US-based teams. That might not completely do the trick, though, so don’t take season delays off the table. When Santa Clara County put sporting events on hold, the San Jose Sharks had to shut down their training facilities. That could happen again when the season begins. 

Fingers Crossed: Assuming the NHL Board of Governors and the NHLPA’s Executive Board sign off on the season package, and assuming COVID-19 cases don’t surge enough to require delays, the season is scheduled to start on Jan. 13, a 56-game season. 

Insider Updates & Analysis

  • Update: Roberto Luongo will oversee the Panthers goaltending program. “Longtime NHL goaltending coach Francois Allaire was named a consultant and will assist Luongo with what the Panthers said will focus on a comprehensive, integrated experience and program for all goalies in the system.”

  • Update: The 2021 NHL realignment could look like this, Pierre LeBrun reported on Twitter.

    • Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

    • Carolina, Columbus, Detroit, Chicago, Florida, Minnesota, Nashville, Tampa Bay

    • Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Jose, St. Louis, Vegas

    • Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg

  • Deep Dive: NHL Team Values 2020: Hockey’s First Decline in Two Decades via Forbes.

A Question for the Peanut Gallery

Should the NHL use the bubble format again this season?

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