The governors of the 31 NHL teams will meet virtually Sunday afternoon and they will likely endorse the new agreement for a schedule of 56 games starting January 13.
Members of the NHL Players Association will hold a vote in the coming days. On Friday evening, more than a hundred NHL players attended a meeting to receive the latest information on the plan to return to play.
On condition of anonymity, an NHL player has agreed to share his thoughts on recent developments.
“We have a good feeling, we are talking about a good understanding,” said the player in a telephone interview with the Journal. The players want to play, that’s the most important thing. “
“We had already settled a big file for a few weeks when the owners agreed not to open the collective agreement. The financial aspect was no longer a problem. There remained the many questions on the management of COVID-19 and the protocols to be established. ”
Like in baseball
For the management of the next calendar, the NHL will seek to avoid travel as much as possible. The matches will only oppose teams from the same division.
“There will be no bubble like in Toronto or Edmonton,” said our informant. The objective is to play in our amphitheatres. We would probably play two or three games against the same team in a few days in order to minimize costs and travel. It’ll be like a baseball schedule, where teams play two, three or four game blocks against the same roster. ”
Of the 31 teams, the San Jose Sharks will have to move to Arizona for training camp and possibly the first games of the season. Santa Clara County, California, is banning contact sports until at least January 8. In the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers played their last games in Glendale, Arizona.
British Columbia ?
A few days ago, Gary Bettman hinted at the possibility of relocating the seven Canadian teams to American soil in the event of a failure in negotiations with the public health authorities of the five provinces (Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia). where there are teams north of the border.
This threat would not be real, however.
“There were questions for the Canadian division. From my understanding, there were two provinces where it was more complicated: Quebec and British Columbia, said our source. In Quebec, François Legault has already said yes and in British Columbia, it is a question of time. In my opinion, that will eventually be resolved. ”
At the end of the evening Saturday, a colleague of TSN however mentioned that the government of British Columbia does not intend to allow other Canadian teams to return to its territory to play games there.
“Bettman played a good game of poker. He scared everyone by citing the worst-case scenario of seeing all seven Canadian teams move to the United States for the season, our source said. This threat has probably stirred up the federal government. From a simple tax perspective, you would lose around 175 players who were paying big taxes. They would have claimed their taxes in the United States. When you have spent over 380 billion to help your people, you also need to recover the money. ”
No risk does not exist
The NHL is likely to give birth in the next few days to some sort of tedious process forward with COVID-19. There will be pages and pages of rules. In the players’ camp, there were still questions.
“There will still be protocols to write. I give an example. If a player caught COVID-19 on the road, they would be forced to stay 10 or 14 days at the hotel where the team was playing to meet a quarantine. It’s a long time. If the team has been on the road for several days already and you have to stay in quarantine for another 14 days, it’s a long time without seeing your family. You have to be careful. I fully understand that. But we won’t be in an impenetrable bubble like Toronto or Edmonton [durant les séries]. There will be a risk even if you follow the rules. ”
TSN colleague Frank Seravalli wrote on Saturday that the teams would be limited to very simple trips abroad. Players would visit the arena, training center and hotel only. They would not be allowed to eat at the restaurant or go out to a bar for a soda.
“It’s true, but we would be allowed to go out for a walk in the streets of the city,” said our source. However, we could not go into a business or visit friends for example. From my understanding, the NHL will trust the goodwill of the players, there will not be a COVID-19 police to follow us. ”
SOME KEY DATES
Until the tentative agreement is ratified by the players and owners, nothing will be set in stone. If we had to decide to postpone the start of the season by a few weeks, everything would be shifted. Nevertheless, here are the dates proposed by this agreement in principle.
Start of training camp for the seven teams that did not take part in the summer 2020 playoff tournament.
Beginning of the training camp of the 24 other formations.
Start of the season. We’re talking about a 56-game schedule.
The date of the last day to make transactions is not determined. However, in the two seasons cut short by the lockout, it was set 26 days (2013) and 27 days (1995) before the last game of the campaign. Following the same logic, the next transaction deadline would be April 12 or 13.
Target date for the last matches of the season.
Week of May 9
Start of the playoffs in the usual formula (4 rounds according to the formula 4 of 7).
First week of July
Presentation of the Stanley Cup. This will be the first time that the precious trophy will be presented in July.
The composition of the divisions
In its stimulus package, the NHL will rearrange its divisions in the hope of limiting travel and, in the case of the seven Canadian teams, preventing them from crossing the Canada-U.S. Border.
So, if the proposed schedule of 56 matches were adopted, the Habs would play 9 times against four teams in their section and 10 times against the other two.
Moreover, if this plan is ratified, the first four formations of each section will participate in the series. This means that one of the seven Canadian teams will be guaranteed to reach one of the two association finals.
Vancouver (2011), Montreal (2014), Ottawa (2017) and Winnipeg (2018) are the latest to achieve this.
It remains to be seen whether it will be possible to see the many visits of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Auston Matthews on site at the Bell Center, or whether we will have to be satisfied with seeing them at work on television.
Obviously, this reorganization of the divisions, whose names remain to be determined, is subject to the permission of the public health departments of Canada and the five provinces concerned to hold matches on their territory.
– With Jonathan Bernier