If there is one thing we’ve learned in the past year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that you will need a Plan B, C and potentially D to get to do what you set yourself to accomplish in the first place. With all the health and travel restrictions, a lot has change and it’s no different for the National Hockey League.
While the NHL appears confident that a 56-game schedule can kick off on January 13th after a 10-day training camp, there is still no guarantee that the pandemic will allow things to go over smoothly. Sure, there is a vaccine in place, however, most fans feel NHL players and staff shouldn’t have priority over, let’s say, people in health care and necessary services.
That is why the NHL has no choice but to put together a plan B for the 2020-21 and Sportsnet believes it will look something like this: “a multi-month bubble again, it appears there could be a contingency plan for shorter term hubs to deal with this potential issue.”
“I do think they have been looking at something,” insider Elliotte Friedman said on Sportsnet 650 The FAN’s The Program. “What it comes down to in a lot of ways is what makes more sense financially? If it’s a hub setup, the league handles a lot of those costs. If it’s a team setup, the team handles a lot of those costs.
“If it’s a team setup, you get your own sponsorship money back into it. If it’s not a team setup there’s a question of how much more do you have to pay or give back?
“It won’t be a bubble, it’ll be more like a hub in and out. Some of the cities that are being considered for it are New Jersey could be one, Philly could be one … but again, depending on what the local rules are. Nashville could be one. I do think that’s not preferred. The players don’t want it and generally I think teams don’t want it unless the costs indicate it makes sense. I think they are looking at that kind of a possibility, but as it stands right now I don’t believe it’s the preference.”
Players aren’t too crazy about this option though it has to be planned ahead if ever the pandemic plays a bad trick on this Return to play Plan for mid-January.
The NHL is also reportedly looking to build some kind of buffer into its schedule to allow postponed games to be replayed at a later date. As we’ve seen in the NFL and the MLB, there is always a chance players test positive and games have to be postponed to later in the season. With a tight summer deadline to respect ahead of the Olympic Games, the NHL needs to get ready for the possibility of games getting rescheduled.
All this sounds like a lot of planning for commissioner Gary Bettman…