Last week, the NBA and its players association voted in support of starting the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22.
Naturally, this has hockey fans wondering if the NHL might aim for a similar time frame.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman joined Writers Bloc on Monday afternoon to explore the idea and address some talking points with regards to some of the questions being asked.
“I do believe that the leadership of the league and the players association have been in very regular contact,” Friedman said.
“The players that I have spoken to are kind of getting to the point where they’re saying, ‘OK, let’s talk about dates here,'” he added.
Early last month, not long after the Tampa Bay Lightning were crowned Stanley Cup Champions in the Edmonton bubble, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league was targeting a Jan. 1 start date for the upcoming campaign. Up until that point, Dec. 1 was the pencilled-in possibility for things to start up again.
While the idea of a Jan. 1 puck-drop makes sense in many ways, it brings several potential roadblocks, including the idea of breaking for the holidays.
“Are those days off going to be an issue? Because if you want to play Jan. 1, you’re probably going to have your training camp mid-December, and are you gonna want to be in a position where you say, ‘OK, we have our training camp and then everybody gets to break for Christmas and then come back?’ he explained. “That has a lot of potential hurdles: No. 1, it could lead to exposures; No. 2, there’s the whole border issue, which may not be cleared up by then.”
In a normal season, there’s typically a three-day break in league action to allow players time with their families — a negotiated break as outlined in the CBA. This season, quarantines and COVID protocols will be front and centre, especially if a new NHL campaign is right around the corner — and one that could see players once again separated from their families for long periods of time again.
“I think the Christmas break is gonna be one thing that they’re going to have to sort out,” said Friedman. “But I think the fact that the basketball players have put a stake in the ground and said, ‘OK, we’re gonna do this,’ I think it’s going to increase a lot of conversation about the NHL players … ‘If the NBA is starting on December 22, are we really gonna wait until February?’ I know that there were a lot of people kind of just spitballing that question the last few days.”
Listen to the full conversation here: