NHL gears up for a bumpy ride ahead of unprecedented 2020-2021 season

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If you need a refresher on how unusual this upcoming season is in the NHL, Commissioner Gary Bettman explicitly said during his season-opening press conference that there are reasons for it. is not played at all.
“It would be cheaper for us to close the doors and not play,” Bettman told reporters on Monday.

With significant business challenges that include buildings completely closed to fans in at least 28 cities, this is a smile and bear campaign. Much of this will be a TV-only property starting Wednesday night, and while the realigned divisions hold great promise for those who enjoy the game here in particular, the league’s headquarters are bracing for a bumpy ride.

The games have already been postponed, just as they were in the other three major North American sports. Difficult situations are sure to arise with the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to climb across the country. And the roughly 50 percent of the league’s annual revenue that comes from fans entering arenas will be reduced to a tiny fraction of that amount.

“There’s not a lot of money to be made with the numbers we’re talking about, both in terms of the number of teams that can allow fans in the building now and also the number of fans in the building. Said Assistant Commissioner Bill Daly.

In total, a $ 5 billion industry stands to lose at least $ 2 billion in a shortened 56-game season. Maybe more. In Bettman’s words: “The magnitude of the loss when you add up all starts with a ‘B’. We are outside of “M” range and “B” range. ”

“All our teams have the capacity to pull through,” he added. “We have made financial arrangements that ensure that the cash flow is what it takes, even if it’s not found money, it’s debt, and our clubs and owners have to make checks. ”

We live in difficult and honest times.

The most powerful men in the NHL made no attempt to calm the current situation during Monday’s hour-long Zoom session and what would it really have been for anyway?

The league is approaching the next few months no differently than you and me individually. All he’s trying to do is weather the pandemic in the safest way possible while keeping the lights on for better days to come.

“Let me clarify something,” Bettman said. “We’re coming back to play this season because we think it’s important for the game, because our fans and our players want it, and it can give people – especially those back in isolation or in the event curfew – a sense of normalcy and something to do.

The rules

They are not set in stone. They are not even written in pen.

Given the uncertainty, it is generally accepted that the league will need to be agile and open-minded.

There is therefore no precise threshold for the number of players below the typical list of 20 players a team would have to miss to force a match to be postponed. Taxi squads of four to six players are being set up to tackle this issue, but it is unlikely to be completely wiped out during a compressed campaign played out in the midst of a pandemic.

“Obviously, we don’t want situations where clubs play significantly shorthanded,” Daly said. “Our clubs on a regular basis in the regular season, year after year, will play under 18 [skaters] And two [goaltenders] sometimes given circumstances. The main difference and advantage that the clubs will have this year is probably the taxi team. …

“We believe this creates an additional element of flexibility that will allow our clubs to better manage the situation in the COVID world. We just make sure that we are in the best possible situation, that our clubs are in the best possible situation, to adjust on the fly if they have to adapt so that we are not in a position where we lose a number of games. ”

Even though the NHL has built an extra week after the regular season to accommodate postponements and cancellations, Bettman recognized that a team might end up not being able to participate in its full game schedule.

As for what will happen in this potential circumstance, he couldn’t yet predict.

“We’re going to have to be able to understand and deal with situations as they arise,” Bettman said. “I’m not sure I have a hard and fast set of rules in this environment – in fact, I’m pretty sure that won’t be the best approach. I think for us, if we are faced with a variety of situations that we wish we hadn’t happened, we want to be in the best situation at that time, not by guesswork, to deal with it.

The stars

The Dallas Stars training facility has been closed since Friday after six players and two staff produced positive COVID-19 results. At a minimum, the team’s first three regular season games will be postponed.

However, it is not yet clear when the Stars will return to skating and how long it will take to play their first game – decisions that depend entirely on the health of the players and the safety of the situation.

“We’re still trying to figure out exactly how the spread happened,” Daly said. “It turned out to be sort of a classic epidemic and there can be a variety of factors associated with it. Having said that, we think we’re at the end of it.

“We hope that we are at the end of this epidemic and that everyone is recovering well and being taken care of and doing whatever it takes to be healthy. We are going to play this through.

The Sharks

When, or if, the San Jose Sharks can return home is also an open question.

A meeting is scheduled with government officials in Santa Clara County on this issue on Tuesday.

Without permission to operate at home, the Sharks run training camp in Scottsdale, Ariz., And prepare for a regular season that begins with eight straight road games. It was a gift from NHL planner Steve Hatze Petros – some extra time to sort out issues before their first designated home game arrives on February 1.

But Daly said it’s not yet clear whether this game will be played in San Jose or at a neutral venue.

Additional income

Helmet ads are making their debut this season, but Bettman cautioned against categorizations as new revenue streams.

In most cases, this is to satisfy pre-existing sponsorship agreements that might otherwise have been lost, according to the commissioner.

As a result, it is dangerous to conclude that this is a step towards showing ads on sweaters. It’s already common practice in the NBA, but it’s not on the horizon for the NHL.

“The jury is still out on the jerseys signage and if we’re going to do that, it’s something that’s important enough in so many ways that I don’t want to do it under these [circumstances] and ask the clubs to do it and approve it, because it is ultimately subject to their approval under these circumstances, ”Bettman said. “So no one should jump to conclusions about what all of this means in terms of what’s next.”

The vaccine

There will be no great rush to get NHL players and staff vaccinated. They will join the queue with everyone else, according to Bettman.

“I’ve seen comments about it, there was never any thought of us skipping the line or anything like that,” he said. “As with PPE and as with testing, if there is another source that we could buy and use when the time is right, that would be one thing, but it isn’t and it would be ridiculous for anyone to suggest that we have the slightest idea that we could or would.

As a result, the NHL does not expect a significant amount of its population to receive the vaccine during the 2020-2021 season. It’s still somewhere far away.

“I don’t think the problem is a problem this season,” Daly said. “Hope this is a problem this year.”

The truth

So, given all that is going on around, what constitutes a successful season?

Florida, Arizona and Dallas are the only teams that will work with fans from the start, with Columbus and Pittsburgh hoping to join them soon. There is a lot less money to be made. And more risks are taken by everyone involved.

“What is ambitious is that we are going through the season, we have a fantastic season on the ice, great playoffs, we present the Stanley Cup and the world is back to normal for the 21-22 season,” Bettman said. “Anything else would be great.”

Crossed fingers.

Stay safe there.

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