The success of the NHL Playoff bubbles is something many fans didn't think could be possible. Now that we have gone the entire return to play without a positive test what does that mean for next season? With COVID showing no signs of vanishing what could the 2020-21 NHL season look like? There are several vaccine candidates in phase 3 trials so what would a widely available vaccine mean for the pro sports world? Could we have fans back in the stands? Will governments ease restrictions on gatherings? Only time will provide the answers to these questions. One thing we can look at is how the NFL does with their season now underway. With teams traveling every week and having some fans in attendance a problem-free season could show us all this is possible.
Some Format Ideas
If you haven't been a listener of the Real Kyper at Noon podcast you're missing out. In a recent podcast, Nick Kypreos and Doug Maclean talked about some of the ideas they have heard. The first idea comes from an Athletic article by Eric Duhatschek talking about a possible Canadian Division. Since the Athletic is subscription-based content here is the link to that article. Another idea brought up during the podcast was just having Canada host the season in 12 cities across the country. If the border is still closed when the 2020-21 NHL season is set to start why not have Canada host the season with their lower COVID numbers. The idea isn't really expounded on but it's another possibility
The Next possibility comes from a tweet by John Shannon. In the tweet, Shannon says he's hearing the NHL and NHLPA are in early talks about next season. One proposed idea is to create four bubble cities and rotate all 31 teams in eight-game increments. John goes on to say it's unclear if all the cities would be in Canada but that it would make the most sense.
The final piece of information I have once again comes from an Athletic article. Both Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside had a Q and A with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. In the article, it says the NHL is still committed to a full 82 game season next year. Daly also raised some doubts about completing a full season in a bubble format. Another interesting thing is Daly also brought the leagues December 1st start date into question. Daly is quoted as saying, "If I had to handicap it today, it's probably less likely than more that we start on Dec 1. But that's not set in stone by any means."
Before I jump into my thoughts what do you think? What format would you choose for the NHL 2020-21 season? With the league concerned the border won't be open by January possibly pushing back the start date makes a lot of sense. A possible January or later start date also lines up with early vaccine availability projections which could be met even sooner.
Personally, I like the 12 Canadian city idea. It keeps the ice surfaces in better condition an issue we saw with having multiple games a night in the current bubbles. It also allows the players to travel and have almost the same regular-season feel instead of being sequestered in a single hotel or city. We all want the normal regular season back. But it's clear the NHL is getting ready in case that can't happen. As always stay safe out there and until next season LET’S GO BRUINS!
Featured image courtesy of Nick Wass/Associated Press.