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No Agreement on NHL Return…Yet; Sides Target Jan. 13

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NHL return, gary bettman, nhl season

The NHL Return is not yet a done deal, but there is growing chatter that the sides are much closer than before. The NHL Return was touch and go for a couple of weeks. There was internal division among NHL owners and conflict between some owners and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. The was squabbling and hurt feelings between the NHL and NHLPA over increased financial asks to play the 2020-21 NHL season.

But we are close to an NHL season, which could start as early as Jan. 13, according to player sources.

Late Monday evening, the NHL and NHLPA got close enough that word began to leak. However, final confirmation has not yet been reached.

After news began to break, a high-level source told the Hockey Now, “There’s a long way between here and there.”

However, there is growing excitement and anticipation for the deal among players, and even for this hockey writer. There are still details to work out, and the source officially cautioned too much excitement. However, there is considerable chatter the NHL return to play will indeed begin with games on Jan. 13.

Training camps will begin days after the Christmas holiday, on or about Dec. 29.

At least that’s the expectation as of Tuesday morning.

It appears the NHLPA held the line and indeed won the battle with NHL owners. Despite strong disagreement among some NHL owners, who opposed the season, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman held his side together, and the sides will largely honor the recently agreed CBA.

On Monday, TSN Reporter Daren Dreger said the NHLPA offered a larger salary deferral but did not offer additional concessions on the hotly debated escrow levels.

As Hockey Now reported Monday evening in our Off the Record column, Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly pushed back on their owners; the league realized it was a losing fight with no end in sight. Late last week, the conversation shifted to the framework of a season, including a 56-game schedule. 

You should check out the OTR column. It was eye-opening.

By Monday, the league forwent discussions on the financials and instead focused on the final details. It appears the owners, who were against a season, have lost. And Bettman may again be a hero.

Early Monday, an NHL source told Hockey Now, “If we play, you can thank Bettman and Daly.”

So, perhaps we shall. If the NHL Return to Play agreement and CBA in June was Gary Bettman’s finest hour, this too would rank as a commendable performance worthy of praise.

As the full details emerge over the coming hours and days, PHN and our network with Adrian Dater in Colorado, Jimmy Murphy, and Joe Haggerty in Boston, who are all working different angles of the NHL return, will have the story.

Check back throughout the day. As soon as we’re confident in the details, we’ll break the news.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now owner, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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