As the calendar changes to November, the NHL is is looking at four to six weeks before camps will have to begin for the league to make its targeted January 1, 2021 start date. European leagues, as well as some North American leagues, have started or will being soon, with varying levels of success.
Here’s what we know about how the 2020-21 season will come together:
NHL 2020-21 season plans: Latest on format, timeline and challenges [ESPN]
Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski are going to come up several times, as ESPN is doing great work staying on top of return to play information and interviews with experts. This is a huge resource, with tons of rumors addressed, as well as specific details about every hurdle the NHL faces. It’s an essential read with tons of information, so I can’t find just one thing to pull out here.
Inside NHL’s plan for 2020-21 season: It’s ‘more challenging’ than summer return [The Athletic]
Michael Russo is one of the best sports journalists out there and it’s unfortunate that a paywall limits his reach now. If you have a subscription to The Athletic, this piece is incredibly thorough, running through the concerns and possibilities of the NHL’s return. Agin, another piece that makes it hard to pin down a single point, but Russo summarizes himself well:
Once more, this is just one of many scenarios, but the one that seems to have the most traction.
Regardless, again, the players would have to sign off on it and a lot can change between now and, well, whenever the eventual target date is.
It’s impossible to forecast the future these days, which is why this is so difficult for the NHL and NHLPA to finalize.
The biggest goal is to figure out ways to bring in some sort of revenue in such a turbulent time.
So, bottom line, a lot of work still needs to be done and Bettman’s probably going to wait as long as he can before announcing exactly what next season will look like and when it’s officially starting.
NHL owner spills the tea on a “Canadian division” and other 2020-21 season details [DailyHive]
Bill Foley, owner of the Vegas Golden Knights, opened up about how front offices are thinking. The article is from a few weeks ago, but it’s still good to have a primary source on what options are being considered.
In particular, Foley focuses in on ticket sale revenue.
“Everyone’s very nervous. We all thought that we’d probably be out of COVID by now, and we would have fans in the arena. So I think we’ve got to see what we can accomplish with partial fans. Forty percent. Fifty percent. Can we get that many people into the arena and have it be done safely? Can they all get tested with a nasal swab the day of the game?”
What we know right now about the NHL and COVID-19 [ESPN]
Greg Wyshynski interviews Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases physician and scientist with the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute who has advised both the NHL and MLS in their return to play efforts. Bogoch seems hopeful that the NHL can pull it off, from a limiting virus transmission perspective.
His point about player buy-in is important:
Bogoch believes that this plan can be carried out safely with rigorous testing of everyone re-entering the hub, and further testing once they’re back inside the hub. But he believes the real key is how responsible those who leave the bubble are when they are back home.
“You have to drive behavioral change rather than be able to rapidly identify cases,” he said.
Bogoch pointed to Phase 3 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan last summer, when players were training in practice facilities with safety protocols, but were on their own otherwise.
“While you can create a safe rink environment, what’s important is what are these guys doing in the other 18 hours of the day. We needed tremendous buy-in from the players and from anyone else,” he said.
Inside the pandemic-season plans for the AHL, ECHL and SPHL [ESPN]
The farm teams are making plans to come back, too, and they’ll have fewer resources to make it happen. Still, could the NHL learn anything from their return to play plans? ESPN lays out how all three leagues plan to be on the ice in 2021.
NHL prospect development in a pandemic: COVID-19 impact on 2021 draft, scouting and pipeline building [ESPN]
A league insight with a Kings twist, Chris Peters speaks with Kings director of amateur scouting Mark Yannetti and director of player personnel Nelson Emerson about scouting in a pandemic and how the team is approaching scouting and development for the next year. There’s also a great look at how college and junior hockey are returning.
Los Angeles has opened its training facility under the NHL’s protocols, with several players from the NHL roster and other prospects already preparing for next season. Emerson says everyone on site gets tested for coronavirus three times a week.
One of the biggest concerns is what will happen to the AHL season. For many teams, the AHL is the primary finishing school for top prospects. That might be even more true for the Kings, as they signed a number of young prospects who will be AHL-eligible this season. Their top farm club, the Ontario Reign, shares a practice facility with the NHL team, allowing for some of the most hands-on training between an NHL team and its prospects. Turcotte, the No. 5 overall pick in 2019, is one of the players likely to start his pro career there.
“Where we’re at, Ontario is critical for us. We want our top players under our umbrella. The AHL and when they start is very important to us. We are hoping we get good news on that front. If the NHL is going to start early in the new year, hopefully the AHL is right behind that,” Emerson said. “We love that the team is right here in our facility. It allows our staff to have constant contact with the players. We hope things can get up and running and back to normal soon. It is a concern, and we talk about it every day.”