A virtual Board of Governors meeting yielded no concrete plans for the upcoming 2021 season, but did reveal that playing home games as opposed to playing in hub cities is being considered the more favorable option.
According to TSN reporter Frank Seravalli, there is a "growing appetite for teams to open the 2021 season in each of their home arenas rather than 'hybrid' bubbles."
The potential format would be similar to what we saw from MLB in which teams travel city to city and play a series of games rather than just one. This would reduce overall travel and would not force the NHL into having to maintain costly bubbles in hub cities. This format would also require a temporary divisional realignment including, most notably, an all Canadian division. Fans could attend games depending on what is allowed by the local authorities and health protocols.
It seems odd that a format requiring teams to travel from city to city would be gaining traction as the number of COVID cases continues to skyrocket through North America. It should be noted, however, that this is a similar format to what we have seen from the MLB, NFL and college football. Though we have seen games postponed and canceled due to COVID, we have not seen an outbreak significant enough to force the closing of a league's season. The MLB was able to start and finish its regular season with teams traveling and they did so without having to pay for a bubble until the postseason.
January 1 remains the targeted start date for the 2021 season, which seems odd considering we are less than two months away from that date and about one month from the expected start of training camps and yet there is still no concrete plan in place for the season. Seravalli also reported that players have not been provided a date to report for training camp.
Though the league continues to cling to Jan. 1 despite it looking less and less realistic, the league has backed off from its position of playing an 82-game season. Of the plans being discussed by the league, none of them include a full 82 games.
In addition to a season format, the NHL and NHLPA also have yet to determine a plan for player salaries. Players are already slated to lose 20-percent of their salaries to escrow with another 10-percent on top of that deferred. With a shortened season, the owners may push for players to take a prorated salary. Given the league's loss of revenue through the pandemic, this could become a major sticking point as planning for the 2021 season continues.