The National Women’s Hockey League is taking a huge step on Wednesday morning, announcing that its 2021 season will take place in a bubble in Lake Placid, New York. David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period was the first to report the news, stating the announcement would become official later this morning. He also reveals that the calendar will be a shortened one — starting near the end of January.
This will be the league’s sixth season.
This could also be huge for the National Hockey League, seeing that the NWHL is almost identical to NHL rules and structure. Therefore, many pundits believe the NWHL’s decision to hold the season in a bubble later in January could have an impact on what the NHL decides to do with its 2021 season.
There is a big difference however between the NHL’s 31 active clubs looking to play and the NWHL hockey organization consisting of the Boston Pride, Metropolitan Riveters, Connecticut Whale, Buffalo Beauts, Minnesota Whitecaps, and Toronto Six. You can tell, it is much easier to find one isolated spot for six teams than it is for 31 clubs with many more players on board.
The NHL has talked about the possibility of that the NHL could step away from the concept of hubs and allow teams to play their home games in their respective arena, leaving them the option of welcoming fans or not, depending on what’s happening with COVID and the rules set up by local authorities. The league could adopt a schedule similar to that of the MLB where we would see two teams face off three times in four days in mini series, in order to reduce travelling as much as possible. With the schedule likely be modelled on the 2020 MLB season in which travel was limited through geographical play, we could see for example a baseball-like series, with, the New York Rangers going to Boston for three games against the Bruins in a five-day period.
But teams would still need to travel and we have no clue what it means in terms of quarantine and strict health restrictions. The NHL would have to consider these things before getting a schedule set in stone.
If the league is forced to proceed with the idea of having multiple hub cities, deputy commissioner Bill Daly stated in the past that the safety protocols wouldn’t be as strict as what was done in Edmonton and Toronto this past summer for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
While the news from the NWHL won’t give us any more answers on what the NHL plans on doing or when it will announce the schedule for the 2021 season, it is exciting to see some developments there. We can speculate all we want while we wait…