"At this point, we’re kind of soaking everything in and collecting as many data points as possible to make good decisions."
Those were the words spoken by NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly in a recent video interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Taryn Hatcher. Daly said the league continues to eye the beginning of January to start its next season, though he acknowledged that there are several factors that they are not in control of, namely the state of the COVID-19 pandemic. Daly and the league have made no secret about the desire to play a full slate of games in 2020-21.
"Our objective has always been, and continues to be, to play an 82-game season if possible," he said.
Playing an 82-game season doesn’t happen in a vacuum, though. The decision has a trickle-down effect on the future, which is another big focus with the NHL looking ahead to getting back to “normal.”
“Ultimately, we believe that the portion of the calendar that we traditionally play in is the portion of the calendar we want to play in,” Daly said in reference to future seasons. “We want to get back on cycle. We’re not totally in control of that and we kind of have to play the cards that are dealt to us for the time being.”
What the upcoming NHL season will look like is still yet to be determined. Will teams be playing in their home arenas? Will there be fans in attendance? These are two crucial looming questions that have yet to be answered because of health uncertainty.
Daly has acknowledged that conducting the round robin and the NHL playoffs in a bubble was perhaps too long a time to have players and staff isolated and away from their families. The likelihood of playing the regular season in bubbles for an extended period of time is low.
The latest reports from the NBA have the league playing a season that could be 10 games shorter than the normal 82-game slate. Could the NHL follow along the same path? Perhaps, but it’s clear the league and the players are not only focused on the immediate future, but the long-term future of the NHL.
“The goal is, and the hope is, we could start the 2021-22 season in our normal time slot. So that certainly would tell you that we would like to be done [next season] far earlier than we were able to award a Stanley Cup this year at the end of September. We don’t want to go too far into the summer if we can avoid it.”
What will next season look like? All I can say is stay tuned.