Surprise! The NHL still has no idea how they’re going to play games next season. Or when that season will actually start. Or how many games they will play in the regular season. Or if the same plan and protocols they come up with will continue throughout the season.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke virtually at the 2020 Paley International Council Summit about what the league is discussing, noting that while the league and the NHLPA have been in contact, nothing has been officially hashed out yet.
For now, the league is continuing to plan for a January 1 start to the 2020-21 season. Presumably, teams would have training camp sometime in December.
As for logistics: It looks like travel between Canada and the United States will still be an issue due to the Covid-19 outbreak. This might make an All-Canada Division a possibility. While dealing with that, the teams may have to deal with quarantines and other restrictions while traveling between states, so he urged that flexibility has to be a priority when scheduling, travelling, and playing games.
“Obviously, we’re not going to move all seven Canadian franchises south of the 49th Parallel, and so we have to look at alternative ways to play,” Commissioner Bettman said. “And while crossing the U.S.-Canadian border is an issue, we’re also seeing within the United States limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states. It’s again part of having to be flexible. …
“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, and that may make sense, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense.
“It may be that we’re better off, particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating, keeping it geographically centric, more divisional based, and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues.”
As for playing games, Bettman stated that he would not require players to commit to playing in sealed and secured bubbles for the season as they did during the summer. Instead players may play 10-12 days without travel at either their own arena or another team’s then go home for a week. Teams may play in front of fans or not depending upon the local conditions. Testing protocols will be similar to those that they used during the summer to make sure players remain healthy and don’t spread the virus. The protocols in the bubble worked very well. There’s no word yet if players will be required to self-quarantine.
So, right now, there is no real news on the season.