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NHL Return

Hello? When is the Next NHL Season? What We Know or Wish We Didn’t



NHL season, NHL return, NHL negotiations

The NBA begins in a few weeks, the NFL continues despite the slip up in Baltimore, and MLB has already planned their next season. If you thought the Russian media rumors about a possible Pittsburgh Penguins trade for a blue-chip winger were exciting, just wait until you find out about the next NHL season.

And wait for that news, we shall. But you can read the report of Russian chatter about a Penguins trade here.

Unfortunately, since the initial talks nearly two weeks ago, the NHL and NHLPA have made almost no progress. According to the NY Post’s Larry Brooks (at least when Twitter isn’t censoring the Post), the details are worse than we originally thought.

Not only did NHL owners ask to renegotiate the back-end of the recently signed CBA deal so that owners could increase the escrow amount, but owners also asked to up the already difficult 20% escrow to 25% this season. And, for good measure, owners asked players to defer nearly 25% of their salary, too.

Imagine getting a phone call that your boss wants you to return to work, but you won’t receive 50% of your salary. You may get 25% of it back, but you have to trust the company to hold onto the money for now, until finances improve.

Seriously, how many of you trust your company that much? (I own PHN and National Hockey Now, and I don’t even trust me that much).

And you would be correct that the players do not trust the owners that much.

Last week, our “league” beat writer Adrian Dater, who helms Colorado Hockey Now, spoke with NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. The Deputy Commissioner calmly and confidently assured Dater there would be a season.

What does the NHL know that we don’t?

A well-connected source told PHN that both sides recognize the need for a season, if for no other reason than to burn the final year off their TV contracts. According to the source, the NHL has ESPN, Fox, and NBC lined up to dish the cash on a new deal for 2021-22.

Skipping this season would delay that new deal, which is no Bueno.

The canceled season would also delay the league’s foray into sports betting, which has become the rage in the last 12 months. Services that give the NHL odds have fans salivating.

But first, NHL owners must agree amongst themselves that, indeed, a season is in their best interest. PHN continues to hear that 6 or more NHL owners are ready to sail away to sandy beaches and return for 2021-22.

Second, the owners infuriated players with a financial ask equivalent to a roundhouse punch with a sock full of quarters. That fence must be mended. At least somewhat, the goodwill and trust built in the summer negotiations for the NHL return must be restored.

Third, it would be helpful if there was some clarity regarding COVID-19 vaccine availability. Will state governments accept 95% efficacy to allow large gatherings, and federal governments again allow supervised border crossing?

On both counts, they absolutely should, but traditionally, governments of all colors (red or blue) aren’t as nearly as good at giving up power as they are at taking it. But I digress.

The NHL and NHLPA have resumed talks, but there is little evidence or chatter that the talks have been productive. It was indeed a bombshell for owners to ask for so much, so quickly. They forgot how to slow boil a frog and instead reverted to Commissioner Gary Bettman’s heavy-handed ways.

And so here we are, on the cusp of December without a plan for a hockey season. So, hockey fans (and media) are left calling into the darkness, hoping those who control the bank accounts realize another season is necessary.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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1 year ago

I’d love to see hockey, but I don’t feel at all sorry for people that have the opportunity to make many times the money of the average person in these difficult times. Consider those that are out of work or at a reduced salary and you realize just how fortunate these players are to have an opportunity to work at all. Same goes for the owners.

1 year ago

There is simply no possibility that the NHL season is going to start January 1. None. I say start it May 1.