How much work is still to be done ahead of the expected start date of January 13, and can it all be accomplished on time? And will American based and Canadian-based teams be able to make trades during the season? The TSN Hockey Insiders discuss this and more in Insider Trading.
With the expected start date of January 13 now just under five weeks away, how quickly do they need to get everything worked out to give them a chance at hitting that timeline?
LeBrun: Every day counts over the next week. What I can tell you is happening right now is both sides have this living, breathing document that is going back and forth. They keep adding to it, they keep negotiating other elements of the protocols and rules and regulations, and they hope to get it done in time for a vote next week on their respective sides.
On the players’ side, I was told they were hoping it would be done through the weekend and they can get a vote on the executive board Monday or Tuesday if all goes well. I asked a governor who was on the call Wednesday with the NHL - all they heard was to get ready for a vote perhaps sometime next week. I looked for a little more clarity there and I was told from a league source, perhaps a board vote by the end of next week.
Now, the Ottawa Senators are part of the ‘Forgotten Seven’, they get to start their camp three days before the 24 teams who played in Return to Play last summer. That’s December 31st. You’re talking about players that need 14-day quarantines, that’s next Wednesday. I think people want this ratified as soon as possible next week.
Dreger: We’re a bit more than three weeks outside of NHL training camp in early January. So everybody involved in the process, yes, they’re hopeful, but there are many who are also very skeptical. I’m talking about club executives, general managers, players’ agents; they recognize the amount of work that has to get done.
And there’s still COVID-19 that all the provinces, the states, the federal governments are wrestling with in terms of health authorities. The NHL assures that once they have an agreement, they can get it done and drop the puck on January 13th, but there is so much to do and there are plenty of skeptics.
There are still plenty of obstacles that may prevent some teams from opening at home right out of the gate. How is the league planning to work around that?
Seravalli: That’s one of the chief concerns that there may be as many as four or five teams that are in question as to whether they can even host games at this point. So Plan B remains the idea of hybrid bubbles or hub cities to potentially start, one in each of the four divisions that would host the teams in the two-week in, one-week out sort of timeframe. And the idea would be to start the season with perhaps 10 or 20 games in that format before then hopefully rolling out to each of the 31 buildings. But the preference remains to start in all 31, we’ll see if they can get there. In the meantime, the agreement that these two sides look at next week may in fact include language on both of those ideas.
What about trades between teams based in Canada and USA? Will there be extra restrictions as long as the borders are still closed?
LeBrun: There will be no trade restrictions between U.S. and Canadian teams. Yes, a player traded from a U.S. team to a Canadian team will be subject to whatever quarantine regulations are in that state or that province. But the league and the PA don’t have any plans to limit trades via the border.
NHL coaches didn’t need to wear masks in the Return to Play bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto - how is that going to work this time around?
Seravalli: That remains to be seen exactly. The two sides are still working on protocols such as that but I informally polled a handful of NHL coaches today, one saying definitively it doesn’t matter whether the protocol asks for it or not, he will be wearing a mask on the bench. And another said, it ultimately may benefit them. He said perhaps I can swear a little bit rather than worry about the camera. A little much needed humour at a time like this.