There is very little hope that the NHL will start the season on January 1, and so the league and players are focused on starting it in mid-January, a source told The Associated Press, Friday.
This has become more realistic given the issues that need to be addressed before players can return to the markets.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity, as the discussions are private.
The two sides must agree on a schedule, with the current work plan comprising between 52 and 56 regular season games.
There was also talk of a buffer period in the schedule in case games need to be postponed, the source said.
Without going into details, NHL Assistant Commissioner Bill Daly told the AP that “various similar concepts are under discussion,” when asked about the schedule of 52 or 56 games and a start in mid -January.
A temporary realignment of the sections should probably be established. There could be a pan-Canadian section, due to the restriction on cross-border travel, as well as an updated protocol related to COVID-19, for players and teams.
With a season start in mid-January, players are expected to start reporting after Christmas, followed by training camp and short-term preseason games.
The regular season would likely run until early May at the latest, with the Stanley Cup final set to end in late June or early July.
It would be similar to the 2013 season, which started in mid-January and featured a 48-game schedule following the lockout. The teams then had a condensed schedule of 48 games in just under 100 days.
In a normal season, teams play 82 games over a period of approximately 185 days, and there are breaks for Christmas, the All-Star game and a week off.
About five months after the collective agreement was extended, the league proposed amending the agreement to compensate for projected losses affecting the 50-50 income split between owners and players.
The current agreement requires players to defer 10% of their salary for the upcoming season and limits the amount of money that will be given to a third party, during the term of the agreement.