I’ll be blunt. I’m not sure if there’s going to be a hockey season. Based on the lack of progress between the NHL and NHLPA, it’s not looking promising for fans of the sport.
When renowned TSN insider Darren Dreger acknowledges that what the NHL is asking for in addition from the players is a big ask regarding deferring another 16 percent of their salaries which pertains to escrow, he’s telling the truth. The league is not negotiating fairly. Especially after the two sides reached agreement on a CBA extension.
There are a lot of factors in play. With the continued threat of COVID-19, that likely means no fans at arenas. A few NHL teams can’t survive without gate revenue and additional income from concessions. That’s why it’s taking so long for the two sides to hammer out an agreement for a shortened 2021 schedule. They still want to start the season on January 1. It doesn’t seem realistic. I have always felt a target date of Jan. 14 or 20 makes more sense.
However, if there are no new talks like what didn’t happen this past weekend, it doesn’t bode well. It’s about dollars and cents along with common sense. Imagine after a successful playoff bubble that had no positive tests and crowned a deserving Stanley Cup winner in the Lightning, not having a NHL season. They had a NHL Draft, an off-season where plenty of moves were made in anticipation of a 2021 schedule.
It isn’t business as usual. What about Taylor Hall, who signed for one year with the Sabres, who are looking to make it back to the postseason for the first time in a decade? What would happen if they didn’t play? Does his contract count making him a free agent, or does he remain in Buffalo for ’21-22. The worst case scenario.
That’s why I haven’t written anything in this space. I just don’t know. While hockey is being played overseas in Europe and even in the United States with the NCAA season underway, if there’s no NHL season, it’ll really stink. It doesn’t matter who you root for. All the momentum they built up under the leadership of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will be gone. You think he doesn’t want to play? It’s his worst nightmare.
Forget all the hoopla of Adidas and each team releasing the intriguing Retro Reverse Jerseys highlighted by the Devils green Christmas Ornaments, the Avalanche nod to the Nordiques combo, the Hurricanes acknowledging the traditional Whalers, the Coyotes unique purple with the original logo, the Ducks and Senators throwing it back to the 90’s expansion, and the Kings ultra cool purple theme. The Canadiens classic maroon and Blackhawks unique threads along with the Flames bringing back the horse.
All that stuff is nice to look at and picture with your favorite players rocking it during games. Even if I’ve never been a fan of the Statue of Liberty third jersey, of course I’d like to see a game where top pick Alexis Lafreniere gets to wear his number 13 Rangers threads and skate in them. Instead, I’m left wondering if the pandemic is going to force the cancellation of the season. Or will they scale back from 60 to 48 games with a later start not until February? Oy. It isn’t what anyone wants.
So, while they discuss a potential all Canadian Division due to regional if that’s what it comes to, I can’t even contemplate it. Right now, the only hockey I’m looking forward to is the 2021 U20 World Junior Championships that is scheduled to begin on Christmas Day in Edmonton at Rogers Place without any fans. If they do play, that will be reason enough for hockey fans to get excited. It’s the best prospect tournament in the world.
At this point, would Lafreniere become available to Canada if there’s no real progress next month? Right now, Team Canada is holding their training camp complete with roster cuts to get down to 25 players. We’ll wait and see where things are in a couple of weeks.
Right now, we have no choice or no say in the serious matter. Ultimately, it’s up to the NHL and NHLPA with coordination and cooperation of the owners to decide if it makes fiscal sense to have a season. The idea of not having one is a bad nightmare. It wouldn’t be like 2004-05 because nothing ever will mirror that pain and anguish. I’m just being realistic.
Hockey withdrawal is very real for me right now. I’m sure it is for you. We miss the sport. Unless you have a way of getting the KHL or Swedish Hockey League, there’s no hockey. College games can be found on conference networks every weekend. But with football dominating most of those stations, there isn’t much excitement.
Maybe if I had a passport and money saved up, I’d fly out to Russia. It would probably be more fun than how bad things are locally. There isn’t much to do. All we can do is wait and hope.