NHL Watch: Clock keeps ticking to save January 1 start date

The NHL and NHLPA haven’t met since the league asked the players to reopen the CBA they just signed four months ago. Changes to escrow is what the owners want and the players are not willing to make anymore concessions in that area.

If that wasn’t enough, two teams have a rash of positive COVID-19 cases that all threaten the 2020-21 NHL season entirely. Still, there’s a good chance to get the season going if they can come to terms by Monday.

NHL and NHLPA CBA dispute

Former NHL player and TV Analyst, Nick Kypreos is reported that the league and players association did not meet this past weekend. This is the first time both sides have not spoken in weeks and could spell doom to a January 1 start date.

The repercussions of the two sides failing to make any progress could also mean a regular season of just 48 games. At the time the NHL asked to renegotiate they also proposed to start on or around January 1 for a 60 game schedule.

The likelihood the players will accept the league’s request to increase escrow to 25% next season and raise it in years 4 through 6 are very low. According to Larry Brooks of the NYPOST, there is “widespread opposition within the union” to it.

Pressure all on Bettman and the NHL

NHL 2021 start date
Bettman under pressure to get a deal done (NHLI)

According to a player agent, he feels the pressure is all on Gary Bettman to get a deal done. “The players have the leverage because at the end of the day, Gary Bettman has to preserve the integrity of the game and they have to play a season — whatever it looks like,” the agent told The Province’s Ben Kuzma. “Because if they don’t, it’s really going to damage the brand.”

The NHL is now in a race against time as they need to get a deal done by the end of the month. With spikes in COVID-19 directly impacting players and their families the urgency just increased. A start of January is imperative so the NHL can deal with the inevitable postponements the league will face.

If the league and the NHLPA are at a standstill, a February start increases. It also limits flexibility which could lead to a cancelled season regardless of their desire to play.

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