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Sunday notes: It’s too quiet in the NHL right now



Happy Sunday to all. Tomorrow is Dec. 1st, and we are all still in the dark about a potential new NHL season. The NBA is still set on starting a new season Dec. 22nd and Major League Baseball’s 2021 season is all mapped out. The only noise coming from the NHL right now, though, are crickets.

I still think there will be a season. Both sides just have too much to lose for the whole thing to be scrubbed. Players have gone nearly nine months now without a real paycheck. Sure, some have gotten bonuses, but for the average player, it’s been a long time since they’ve gotten paid.

The two biggest obstacles to an actual schedule being proffered are 1. The virus and all its technical complications to safely playing and 2. A growing chasm between players and owners over money.

NHL players, as part of a July 10 agreement to extend the collective bargaining agreement, were already committed to a 20 percent escrow deduction from their checks for this season, along with a 10-percent deferral of salary to a future year. Reports have said that NHL owners now want to revise the agreement, with a 25-percent escrow and 26-percent deferral. The owners say they need this – which the New York Post’s Larry Brooks pegged at about $300 million – to get through this season because of a likely absence of paying fans.

Reportedly, some owners wouldn’t mind just canceling the entire season. I talked with NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly about a week ago and he said he anticipates a season. If so, somebody needs to make a decision soon. Personally, I think we’re headed to another 48-game regular season, with a late January start. That’s just my pure hunch.

In the 2012-13 lockout, however, a 48-game season started in late January. In the lockout of 1994-95, ditto.

There has been nothing from the league about any change to its Jan. 1 target date to start the new season, but the clock is ticking. It seems like the money issue is more of an obstacle than the virus issue. Going back on their agreement from July would be a terrible look for the owners, but because hockey is still very much dependent on gate revenues for solvency, a global pandemic gives them reasonable cover as an excuse.

Let’s hope this week brings some answers as to what will happen.

Some notes and links:

  • Several Avs players have been skating of late at Family Sports Center. I plan to get out there this week and get some video.
  • Jaromir Jagr, 48, is still playing, folks. (New York Post)
  • My laptop got hacked last week. It’s a wonderful world, isn’t it? Now I need to look for a new one on Cyber Monday, unless there are any of you out there who have a used one you want to sell me.
  • Vladislav Kamenev is back playing again for his KHL team, St. Petersburg. He’s got four goals in 12 games.
  • A rip job here on the NHL owners for wanting to change the CBA (Pittsburgh Hockey Now)
  • Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy on Torey Krug signing with the St. Louis Blues: “It [Expletive] sucks!” (Boston Hockey Now)
  • Monday marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Hall of Fame hockey reporter Jim Kelley from the Buffalo News. We all miss Jim a lot. He was a super friendly guy, especially to newbies on the hockey beat like I was way back in 1995. I’ll never forget the compliment he gave me on my lead paragraph from a 1996 Cup Finals game story. That was big, coming from him. Kelley had a gig at, too, and I was honored to have been given the job as his replacement. I wrote for SI for a good couple of years before the business went sideways. Here’s a great remembrance of Jim by one of his colleagues at the Buffalo News, Mike Harrington (Buffalo News)
  • As sports finance columnist Eric Macramalla noted recently, the owners somehow figured fans would be back in the stands for a December NHL Return and didn’t account for the COVID case and death rates to rise with a second wave, astronomically in the USA as it turns out. This miscalculation is why they’re taking the drastic measure of asking for money from the players. (Forbes)
  • An update on the top free agents still available on the open market, with Mikael Granlund looking like the consolation prize for whichever interested teams lose out on Mike Hoffman. (Sportsnet)

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