Drop the puck! Ladies and gentlemen, we WILL have NHL hockey this season.
According to a report from NHL insider Elliotte Friedman, the NHL and NHLPA have both come to an agreement that will avoid the outright cancellation and the further postponement of the 2021 NHL season.
That agreement? It's the same one that the league and the players agreed to already back in July. In other words, the NHL has lost in its effort to re-open the collecting bargaining agreement that they signed earlier this year. Both the NHL and the NHLPA have agreed to "keep economic framework of new CBA."
From Friedman's most recent column for Sportsnet:
The NHL and NHLPA will continue to negotiate protocols for the 2020-21 season, but agreed that the economic framework of the newly negotiated CBA won’t be changed.
According to multiple sources, they (the players) were willing to defer additional monies — in exchange for what they considered a meaningful concession. One of the suggestions, for example, was slightly raising the salary cap to put more money in the system. (Yes, that could increase how much players will eventually owe to balance the 50/50 split, but with escrow caps, it is not a great concern to the current group.)
No deal could be reached, and both sides decided to move on.
What’s next? Both sides continue to grind away at the protocols for 2020-21. Training camps, opt-outs, testing, the schedule, the playoffs, re-alignment, you name it.
Wow... take a moment to appreciate the historic moment in which Gary Bettman admitted defeat at the hands of the NHLPA. After decades of forcing the players to bend to his will, Bettman must have finally realized that he had no leg to stand on in this case. Are the owners in a tough spot? Absolutely. But, at the end of the day you signed an agreement that took all of that into consideration. There's nothing left to negotiate.
So... what's next?
Again from Friedman:
Targets include a Jan. 13 start to the season, with non-playoff teams reporting Dec. 28 and others on Jan. 1. No exhibition games appear likely. I believe there is a short-term “hub plan” being worked on just in case, but it is not the preference. The biggest headache might be training camp plans in places like Montreal, San Jose (Arizona?) and Winnipeg, which have strict current restrictions due to COVID-19.
Friedman's counterpart over at TSN and The Athletic, Pierre LeBrun, reports that the NHL is planning on a 56 game season that will begin on January 13th.
From LeBrun's most recent column for The Athletic:
So now it’s full steam ahead on continuing to hammer out details for the 2020-21 season, which both sides hope will begin on Jan. 13. There’s still sizeable work to be done on scheduling, COVID protocols, critical dates, etc.
For now, the aim is a Jan. 13 and a 56-game season.
LeBrun also reports that divisional re-alignment is coming for this upcoming season and that we're likely to see an all-Canadian division:
And then, and this is key, once both sides finalize a season package, both sides will have to bring it to their respective constituents for clearance. The NHL’s Board of Governors and the NHLPA’s Executive Board will have to sign off on the plans. And because there will be temporary changes to the divisions this year, re-alignment generally requires two-thirds Board of Governors approval. So that’s what will likely be needed when the Board votes.
Drop the puck, let's go!!!