The NHL has set a possible return date for the 2020-21 season as Jan. 1 and there are a number of hurdles it must clear to make it happen. The American Hockey League is targeting a February return, but there are very different challenges facing the league in its return to action.
It can be easy for fans to lump in leagues as all being in the same financial situation. Football is playing, college football is playing, the NBA just set a date for their return. What's wrong with hockey? But it is important to remember that each league is in a very different situation with very different challenges.
The voice of the Hershey Bears, Zack Fisch, joined the Capitals Talk Podcast and gave the latest update on the AHL and where things stand with the 2020-21 season.
"We're still waiting, much like the NHL," Fisch said. "The NHL's targeted around Jan. 1. The AHL was hoping for December, they pushed that back to Feb. 5 as the magical date circled on the calendar that hopefully will have American Hockey League action starting."
The AHL is facing the same problem as the NHL, but to a greater degree. The reason why the NBA can set a start date before Christmas and the NHL's Jan. 1 date seems optimistic is because the NHL is much more reliant on fan-generated revenue than the NBA, which has a massive television contract. The AHL, on the other hand, is entirely reliant on fan attendance revenue.
The NHL found a way to play without fans in the summer, but that is not even an option for the AHL.
"While there is a little bit of a difference in the AHL compared to the NHL -- we saw the bubble scenario which, credit to the NHL, that went sensational. In the American Hockey League, the money comes in on fans," Fisch said. "It comes in on fans coming in and watching the team so I don't see a scenario for every team to play without fans."
ESPN reported that some NHL owners have suggested it would be financially beneficial for the NHL not to have a season at all. If the situation appears that dire to some NHL teams, you can imagine the financial strain AHL teams must be feeling.
According to Fisch, however, the Bears are not interested in opting out of the season.
"The Bears want to play," Fisch said. "The Bears are committed to playing as long as it's safe to do so. "