American Thanksgiving serves for some as a benchmark to get a glimpse of the teams that will make the playoffs. This time, the NHL arrives at this American holiday without a specific plan for the next season.
The league and players are starting to run out of time to start the campaign on 1er January, as expected. Several issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic remain complex.
“There’s still a lot of unknowns ahead of us,” Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney admitted Monday. With the encouraging news about vaccines and the growing hope surrounding this situation, I hope we will have some good news soon as well. However, there is still a long way to go. ”
A base seems already in place. The realignment of the sections, including a Canadian section and three regional sections in the United States, seems inevitable due to the issues surrounding the border closure. The NHL and the NHL Players Association (AJLNH) also extended their collective agreement this summer with the goal of getting through the pandemic.
However, with the increase in cases in North America and a larger drop in income than expected by owners, questions have arisen requiring the agreement to be amended. These issues have therefore endangered the start of the next season.
As was the case this summer with Major League Baseball, the main issue is money. The collective agreement – valid until 2026 – ensures a 50-50 sharing of hockey-related income; includes the 10% postponement of salaries for the next season; imposes a maximum amount of money placed in trust over the entire term of the agreement.
Less than five months after the deal was announced, the league is now asking players to increase the deferral of the remittance of wages to 20 or 26% and the limit on the amount placed in trust, depending on what a person at current negotiations told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The two sides have not publicly commented on the negotiations.
If the season is shorter than the usual 82 games, players could refuse to talk about pro-rated wages if the amounts placed in trust are increased.
Both sides have said they are aiming for a start to the season on 1er January. To get there, things will have to tumble quickly.
A camp of about two weeks is anticipated before the first night of games. The later the season starts, the fewer games there will be. We are talking about a calendar of 50 to 70 meetings per team. And the NHL will likely want to hand the Stanley Cup over to the champion team before the start of the Tokyo Summer Olympics, which is due to start on July 23.
“The most important thing for me is that the season begins,” said Predators general manager David Poile. I am ready for all scenarios. The league and the NHLPA will find the best way to bring hockey back, whether it is in front of fans or not. I just want us to find a way to start the season. ”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman indicated earlier in November that the NHL has no plans to force the seven Canadian teams to come and play in the United States if the border between the two countries is still closed to travel. non-essential.
“I don’t know what the solution will be, but I know everyone will have thought about it for a long time,” Poile said.
It will also be important for the NHL and NHLPA to agree on a system of testing for COVID-19 and a protocol in the event of an outbreak within a team. The bubble model worked this summer, but it’s unthinkable to force players to self-isolate for months on end for the season.