Report: NHL likely to shorten training camps and adopt taxis squads for this season

NYR training camp 2019 (NYR)

There appears to be plenty of talking going on with the league and owners, just not much is making it out to the public. As we await some news as to when the NHL 2020-21 season will begin, we are getting some word on other matters.

NHL likely to shorten training camps and minimize exhibition games

Elliotte Friedman discussed on his latest 31 Thoughts Podcast that the NHL may shorten training camps for this season. “I think they are going to get crushed,” he said about training camps. “Someone made a really good point, if you can’t have fans at exhibition games why do you need them?” During the RTP format, teams were given only one exhibition game so maybe they get two this time around.

“Secondly, you are not inviting 60 players to camp this year” Friedman began to explain. “I’ve heard talk they are going to cap it at 35.” At this time, all the NHL players are skating and almost ready to go, so minimizing camp wouldn’t hinder teams too much.

“Someone said this to me and it makes a lot of sense,” Friedman continued. “You have the players show up for camp right after Christmas and you play for January 6th.”

All this lines up with what Nick Kypreos told me yesterday. “Maybe the players want Christmas with their families,” he said. “They’ll probably go in the last two weeks in January,” Kypreos predicted.

nhl training camp
Oilers training camp (NHLI)

NHL may adopt taxi squads

“I hear [the NHL] are talking about a taxi squad,” Friedman revealed. “Players will get paid their AHL salary but get NHL per diem.” This would be a huge boost for some AHL teams like the Hartford Wolf Pack or the Bridgeport Sound Tigers if they’re unable to play due to local restrictions.

As far as impact to the salary cap, these players on the taxi squad will not count against it. Friedman admits he is unsure if that is the route the league will take but it isn’t a one-off. He’s heard several people mention it and for me it seems to make the most sense.

When the inevitable positive cases hit, these taxis squads could become invaluable for many teams.

AHL waiting for NHL guidance

While the NHL gets its house in order, the AHL is hoping for my guidance soon. Taxi squads would just be a start, but league president Scott Howson is looking for more.

“It’s got to make sense,” began Scott Howson, the AHL’s new president and CEO. “If we’re able to play it’s going to be more about player supply and player development this year than anything else. Without fans in the buildings, it’s certainly not going to be about any meaningful revenue. So yes, we’re going to want to know what the NHL is doing before we finalize what our plan is going to be.”

Sportsnet

What the AHL really needs is financial support with no ticket revenue coming in. If the NHL relies on gate receipts, the AHL needs it like people need water and air to survive.

Howson also admitted that he isn’t sure if all AHL teams will be able to play next season. He is hopeful and says he is “encouraged that there is a strong desire for virtually every one of our teams to play.”

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