What’s next for NHL’s Jan. 13 plan after clearing of financial hurdles?

NHL: New York Islanders at New York Rangers
The NHL is hoping that they can start their 2021 season by Jan. 13 after financial negotiations were cleared.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, some progress has come out of the NHL.

The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported on Tuesday morning that the stalemate in negotiations centered around economics between the NHL and the players’ union (NHLPA) has ended.

“We are moving forward with the process of working through all of the issues that need to be addressed and agreed to, and that are obviously unique to playing a season during a pandemic,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said.

After signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in June to get back on the ice and finish the 2019-20 season after the COVID-19-induced hiatus, the NHL approached the union asking the players to defer more money for the 2021 campaign, to which the players balked at; thus freezing talks for weeks.

Per LeBrun, the terms agreed to in that MOU “will stand as is.”

With one hurdle cleared, the NHL still has about 95 more meters of obstacles to clear before getting to the start of the season, which both sides hope will come on Jan. 13.

Getting players to travel to their teams’ home cities and quarantine will precede a training camp that is expected to start around New Years Day while the league puts together a season schedule, coronavirus protocols, and critical dates such as the trade deadline.

Because the Canadian border is expected to stay closed to all but essential travel, an expected all-Canadian division could spark geographically-driven divisions and schedules.

It remains to be seen officially, however, if teams will be playing their home games in their home arenas.

Santa Clary County has banned contact sports for three weeks, meaning the San Jose Sharks can’t train or play in their home if that ban continues into the new year.

If other teams are impacted by similar rulings, it’s more likely that central hubs will be utilized to ensure each team has a place to play and travel is limited — thus saving additional money for teams that took a financial hit during the pandemic. According to LeBrun, that is not the preferred plan.

For further clarity on the expectations of the situation, a source told amNewYork Metro on Tuesday that the New York Islanders and Nassau Coliseum are making preparations with the expectation that the team’s home games will be played at their own arena in 2021.

That would indicate that the NHL season could be carried out under a similar style as to what Major League Baseball did during its 60-game 2020 season. Teams would only play against and travel to their closest divisional rivals.

The 24 United States-based teams would be broken up into three divisions of eight teams while the seven Canadian clubs form the fourth.