The National Hockey League wrapped up their season on September 28th when the Tampa Bay Lightning knocked out the Dallas Stars in game six to win The Stanley Cup. Since then, the league has put out some interesting ideas for how to tackle their 2020-2021 campaign.
They have tinkered with having certain cities designated as NHL Hubs and having teams compete there for a certain period of time. The league has discussed the concept of allowing some arenas to host fans. Commissioner Gary Bettman has shared his desire to start the NHL’s 2021-2022 campaign in the fall. These are very intriguing and important matters the league has talked about. Unfortunately, talking is all they have done up to this point.
Commissioner Bettman, the owners, and the players association have to start making decisions. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, the league does not even have a set date for the season opener.
1 league gives updates, the other gives headaches
The NBA concluded their 2020 season on October 11th when the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Miami Heat in The Finals. The NBA has recently announced how they will handle the 2020-2021 season.
The preseason will start on December 11th and go through December 19th. The regular season will officially start up on December 22nd. There will also be a play-in-tournament with the seventh through tenth seeds to determine the last two playoff spots for each conference. The NBA now has a tentative plan to complete their season during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NBA is attracting a lot of attention with off-season drama, trades, free agency, and the draft. The NFL season is in full force. All of this is happening while the NHL sits in the corner with only the occasional update sputtering from the ESPN bottom line.
The league was riding high after finishing up their season with zero positive COVID-19 tests. That was something the NBA, NFL, or Major League Baseball could not claim to have accomplished. But since then, the NHL has had problems finding concrete answers to their problems.
What's the hold up?
The players are very much against a yearlong bubble, which is understandable. The teams that were there in Toronto or Edmonton for multiple rounds went through a real emotional drain. The players will not agree to a deal that involves them not being able to see their families for months at a time during the regular season.
That is the most important problem the league is grappling with, but there are certainly many more factors they will have to address. The list of moving parts for the NHL is boundless; ticket revenue, the number of games, where to play, how to incorporate the Canadian teams, etc.
The league is juggling a lot of aspects, that is true. However, that is still not an excuse for having practically no clarity on what the 2021 season will look like. The NBA might not have quite as many questions to answer, but they were still able to figure out their plan before the NHL was, despite having their season end two weeks later.
Hockey fans have been in the dark practically all offseason. They deserve an update on what the league’s season will look like. Of course, the plan will not be perfect. There will almost certainly need to be some adjustments made along the way. But it is getting to the point where they need to start making decisions.
By Thanksgiving, the league should, at the very least, have a season start date and an outline of how the regular season will be handled. Not every aspect of their plan needs to be revealed. But that is a reasonable date to have that information available to the public.
The league cannot afford to wait much longer. The NHL has a deserved reputation for consistently failing to compete with the other three leagues for headlines. That is a huge reason why hockey does not succeed in particular markets. Taking this long to release their plan is, unfortunately, the most recent example of that problem. The NHL needs to give their 2020-2021 season update soon, or they will only continue to fall behind in America’s sports consciousness.
Story by Chad Jones
Follow Chad on Twitter @shutupchadjones