The National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players Association have been hard at work trying to find a solution that would allow them to resume play for the 2019 - 2020 NHL season, or more specifically to play out the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs in order to allow a champion to be crowned for this season. Some fans have called for the league to simply pack it up and start fresh in the 2020 - 2021 NHL regular season, but I can understand why the NHL itself feels the need to honor its TV deals, one of the league's primary sources of revenue. That being said a new report from Calgary Flames insider Eric Francis of Sportsnet has me questioning whether or not the league is doing the right thing by trying to salvage the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Early on in the NHL's 24 team playoff plan we were hearing reports that suggested training camps could begin relatively early on in the summer, a solution that would have allowed the league to play out the playoffs and jumped back immediately into the following regular season. Now however the plans from the NHL sound drastically different and if Francis sources are right on this it sounds like the playoffs could actually start around the time we would normally would have expected to see training camps for the 2020 - 2021 regular season, prior to this whole pandemic of course.
First here is what Francis had to say this week:
Talking to people around the hockey world last night and this morning, it sounds like the league's target date to open NHL camps is now being pushed from mid-July to Aug. 1.
This means that we likely would not see a playoff game before the month of September and, at least in my estimation, would make it impossible for the NHL to keep its original promise of preserving the integrity of the 2020 - 2021 regular season at all costs. Even with a condensed schedule it would be hard to imagine how the league could create an equal playing field for teams to start the following season, especially for the teams who go deep into this 24 team playoff format. The offseason allows teams a chance to evaluate their rosters and retool, but it also allows the Stanley Cup contenders to get some much needed rest and recover from any potential injuries they may have suffered during those intense playoff games.
I must admit that it is too early to criticize the league given that we have no idea what their plan moving forward will look like, but on the surface this sounds like a major delay that could in fact have a large impact on the 2020 - 2021 NHL season.