On December 22 the NBA will start the 2020-21 season. They are slated to play 72 games. The NHL? They are still bickering about money thanks to what amounts to around a third of league ownership.
“10-12 owners” pushing Bettman in a tough direction
The more I gather information and speak with folks around hockey, the more it appears the hold up is due to a small group of owners. This klatch in essence is seeking to renege on the CBA they worked out just four months ago.
“Gary Bettman is in a tougher place than he has been in the last 25 years,” Nick Kypreos told me yesterday. “He signed a deal and he has to go back to the players and ask for a mulligan.”
According to the former Sportsnet analyst he said that “10 or 12 owners pushed him to go in a direction that he didn’t want to.” Ultimately, Bettman and the owners have to play. If they don’t, Kypreos admits it could cause “catastrophic damage to the brand.”
Same owners would rather cancel the season
Kypreos is not the only one around the sports world who thinks not playing would have a major negative impact to the game. 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 Athletic’s Eric Duhatschek believes that the same group of owners would rather not play due to no ticket revenue. Some of those owners understand they are losing money next season and would rather minimize the immediate damage. They are the epitome of being penny wise and a dollar dumb.
We may never know who are these owners
The general consensus is the the remaining 2/3 of owners will get things on track and save the season. They along with the players will likely get a little extra deferment of salary next year and leave escrow untouched.
Many also do not see the NHL hitting that January 1 target date and a mid-January start is more likely. That would also put the kibosh on a 60 game schedule and reduce it to 48.
All signs appear positive that the 2020-21 season will happen. That will be in spite of this small group of owners. While many can guess at who they are from past history, small markets, etc… we will never really know.