As we approach the two week mark without the NHL it’s time to take stock of what we know so far. One thing is these last two weeks have felt more like two months, and we all can’t wait till this crisis is behind us. It’s also important to follow all precautionary measures and stay as safe as possible during these difficult times. While other major sports leagues have had several players test positive for COVID-19, so far the NHL has only had two players test positive - both members of the Ottawa Senators.
The recent general managers meetings have shined some light on what is going on with the NHL and their plans moving forward. From what has come out the league is still moving forward with plans to resume and finish the regular season and award the Stanley Cup. On top of finishing the regular season and playoffs from this year, the league is also fully committed to having a full season next year. Early on in the suspension the league told teams to secure arena availability in July. The most recent meetings took this one step further, informing teams to secure availability into August.
This seems to fit a time table the players actually put forth for how to resume the season. That plan includes training camp in June to get everyone back up to game speed. The plan would be for the regular season finishing up in July, with the playoffs happening in August and September. This would push the off-season, draft, and free agency to October, with the new season starting sometime in November. Is this plan set in stone? Not by any means. But the league telling teams to get availability for games is a good sign.
Obviously, summer hockey comes with some challenges. First and foremost the condition of the ice surface. Games in the warmer months of May and June have already seen a decrease in ice quality. It will take some almost heroic feats of ice management and engineering to keep the ice at top quality in the heat and humidity of the summer. Another major issue is every player on an expiring contract is set to become a free agent on June 30th, the last day of the league year. This is mainly a legal issue that should be worked out. But it's still an obstacle that needs to be dealt with before the season resumes. Another similar issue would be the work visas of all foreign players. They would need to be amended or reissued so they could return to play the rest of the season, and potentially the playoffs.
There is a lot at stake for the league to finish the season. Not only has the Stanley Cup been awarded in every season since 1919, but the cancellation of the season would have a massive financial cost. Some estimates say the league could lose up to a
$1 Billion if the season is canceled. A loss of that magnitude could have ramifications for years to come, especially on the salary cap. At one point the cap was predicted to have a $4 to $6 Million increase. If the season can't be finished it might have a $4 to $6 Million dollar reduction, or even worse.
While we all miss the sports we love, we also want them to come back only when it is safe to do so. The league has not wavered in it's commitment to finish this season. It is just a matter of when that will happen, not if. Even if next season can't be a full 82 game season the completion of this season needs to be the top priority. With more information being learned about the extent of this crisis daily keep checking back for any more updates on when our teams will be getting back in action. Also, check out all of our team pages for some great content to fill the sports void in your life until then.
Features image courtesy of nbcsports.com