Report: NHL Aiming to Start 52- or 56-Game Schedule in Mid-January

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2020

FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2020, file photo, fans pose below the NHL league logo at a display outside Falcon Stadium before an NHL Stadium Series outdoor hockey game between the Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche, at Air Force Academy, Colo. The uncertainty raised by coronavirus pandemic leads to experts providing a bleak short-term assessment on the NHL's financial bottom line, with some projecting revenues being cut by almost half. What's unclear is how large the impact might be until it can be determined when fans can resume attending games and if the league is able to complete this season. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

The NHL is reportedly aiming to start a 52- or 56-game schedule in mid-January, according to ESPN's Emily Kaplan

Per that report:

"The NHL's initial target of Jan. 1 became unfeasible because of necessary time for training camp—plus extra time promised to the seven teams that did not make this summer's expanded playoff field—as well as quarantine protocols in some markets. As of Thursday, NHL players had yet to receive any official directive of when they are supposed to report back to their playing cities."

Kaplan added, however, that the NHL and NHLPA have had "regular conversations" about "potential schedules, formats or protocols."

There are also financial negotiations ongoing, with team owners pushing to have the players defer more than the 10 percent they already agreed upon. Players, understandably, are hesitant to change the terms of an agreement they just made this summer when they signed a new CBA. 

Kaplan added that "sources on the players' side said the NHLPA would be willing to work with the NHL as long as the owners are willing to give them concessions in return."

The NHL, like the NBA, isn't planning on returning to a bubble setup like they did to conclude the 2019-20 season.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke about the uncertainties heading into the 2020-21 campaign:

"That is a work in progress influenced largely by what we're learning from medical experts. COVID is going through a second wave, which could be worse than the first wave, and between Thanksgiving and the aftermath and what they think is going to happen for Christmas and the aftermath, we are taking our time and making sure as we look to ways to move forward. We are focused on health and safety and doing the right things."

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to loom over the sporting world, forcing everything from unconventional scheduling to outright postponements and cancellations. The NHL is no exception in that regard.