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How will the 2021 NHL season look?

By Admin User on December 10, 2020

All professional sports leagues are struggling through a COVID-19 world. The National Hockey League (NHL) is gearing up for another season after a successful playoff bubble with zero positive COVID-19 tests. As the month of December approaches, a regular year would see most teams almost halfway through an 82 game schedule. Due to the global pandemic, the NHL and its players are still waiting for opening day. When that is and what the 2021 season will look like is still a mystery.

Tom Gazzola, host of the Edmonton Oilers pre & post-game show on TSN 1260, was able to experience the NHL playoff bubble firsthand.

Courtesy: YEG People

Although many restrictions and regulations left Gazzola in the very top of Rogers Place for playoff games, this unique experience is something he can use to provide his best knowledge and answers for how the NHL will conduct the 2021 season. 

Question: In your experience what do you think was the biggest success for the NHL stanley cup playoff bubble?

Answer: The fact that there were no covid positive tests, absolutely was the number one thing that was a success. The fact that they were able to complete the season and the NHL recouped a bunch of the money that they could have potentially lost, they would have lost around $1.1 billion dollars… and they were able to claw back some $400 to $450 thousand dollars. Also you don’t get that incomplete season on the Stanley Cup which is the most important thing.

Q: What was the biggest challenge of the NHL stanley cup playoff bubble?

A: I think logistics were very tough and that took a lot of careful planning. Keeping everything sorted, the medical side, there were probably a ton of questions that came up that were never thought of once they got into each bubble. And just listening to people that were in the bubble, it was not always the most pleasant to be in there… you’re restricted to a certain area and it’s generally pretty small even though these were four star hotels. The quality of life became an issue for the organizations and teams, but there was more good than bad overall. 

Courtesy: NHL News – NBC Sports

Q: What’s next for the NHL and the players as the next season is on the horizon?

A: Simple, just figure out the framework for the season and get your timeline down. If guys want to recoup as much money as they can as players, then they want to play as many games as possible and we’re starting to see them roll into their respective club cities, because they want to show the owners they’re ready to play and get this thing going. That’s the next step. Now the NBA situation too, puts some pressure on the NHL to get this thing going. 

Q: How do you see the 2021 season being played out?

A: Well I think it’s no question that there will be challenges. With the U.S.A. and Canada border still closed, I would imagine the seven Canadian teams will be in their own division to begin the season… which means three American divisions of teams based in the same areas, reducing travel time and lengths. The scheduling could see a shift from what the NHL usually does, with teams playing two to three game series at a time rather than single games. 

Courtesy: Mile High Hockey

Q: In regards to contracts and salaries, how will NHL players receive the full money from their contracts?

A: It sounds like we’re going to see some pushback from the NHLPA and the players because they want to make as much money as possible naturally. But they signed an agreement when the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was struck and the deal was for them to have prorated salaries, but apparently that’s a sticking point now in the negotiations. It seems like the more games they play, the more money they’ll make and that’s something they really want to pursue. 

Q: In comparison to other leagues, what will be the biggest challenge with getting next season started?

A: Scheduling should be pretty easy to figure out, getting the players all back into town is kind of like herding cats. Some guys aren’t always happy to come back, we heard that there were some players who didn’t even want to come back for the return to play in August. The testing and all that will have to be figured out as well, what will that look like, that will be a big time cost as well. With the vaccines coming to light, figuring out the timelines for that. Building plans for who gets the vaccine, how will this be distributed, how will this allow fans back into the buildings. If they want to maximize revenue, they need butts in the seat and that’s going to be a challenge for the league on how to forecast that. 

Q: How will the owners generate revenue in places that fans aren’t able to attend the games?

A: They are going to have to rely on T.V. deals, advertising, marketing, naming rights for their buildings and I know that’s a big chunk of the money that they bring in, but it’s not all of it, especially with no fans in the seats. They’re going to have to get creative, it’s going to be tough sledding for a while. When you’re playing games and getting that advertising revenue and marketing revenue, it’s at least something. 

A projected start date of Jan. 1, 2021 for the 2021 season is what the NHL is striving for.



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