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League Official Tells PHN: Bubble Cities Possible for 2021



2020-21 NHL Season Hub Cities
2020-21 NHL Season Hub City is Possible. 2020 Hub City Toronto: Photo by Dan Kingerski. All Rights Reserved

The bubble cities were hopefully a thing of the past. Once the NHL wraps up the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Edmonton next month, the 2020-21 NHL season, and the Pittsburgh Penguins campaign is set to begin on Dec. 1 with actual home games at home arenas.

At least that’s the hope.

However, a league official who spoke on condition on anonymity told Pittsburgh Hockey Now there are other options that the league is considering for 2020-21.

The source stressed that the NHL had not taken any ideas to the NHLPA, yet, and the players union will get a say. Right now, “the PA is not involved.”

Players were willing to pack up and shack up for 10 weeks to win the Stanley Cup. There may not be such enthusiasm for a regular-season slog away from loved ones.

The league official confirmed to PHN that the NHL is considering several ideas for the safe start to next season. One of those ideas is four bubble cities with eight teams in each bubble (though one bubble would have only seven teams).

The teams would play seven to eight games in each bubble. Then rotate to the next city.

Kind of like square dancing? And switch!

It would be an interesting discussion with the NHLPA, which already accepted a flat salary cap for the immediate future until ownership’s lost revenues are regained, and accepted the bubble isolation for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.

A few players opted out of the bubble, and Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask left for family reasons, but the players have otherwise participated en masse.

While the league official did not specifically mention limitations of the idea or others, a COVID-19 vaccine and it’s timing could also play a large role in determining the start of next season, too. Some estimates place a vaccine within reach as early as November, though others suggest January, if at all.

According to CNBC, the NHL gets approximately 36% of all revenues from ticket sales, and that amounted to $1.86 billion in 2018-19. According to the annual evaluations, the Pittsburgh Penguins earned $76 million in gate receipts last season, which accounted for 41.3% of total revenue.

The NHL has truncated the coming offseason with the NHL draft tentatively scheduled for Oct. 9-10, and the start of training camps in mid-November. Just two weeks later, the season is presumed to begin.

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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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