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The NHL is on its way to a January 13th start date

God willing and the COVID-19 numbers don’t rise

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NHL: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported today (subscription required) that the NHL and NHLPA have finally come to some agreement on the financial terms that were the cause of some consternation. The NHL is now focused on a January 13th start date with a 56 game schedule, with some days more than likely built in in case games need to be re-scheduled due to COVID-19.

The Memo of Understanding from June that both sides agreed to in order to start the post-season will remain unchanged.

So now it’s full steam ahead on continuing to hammer out details for the 2020-21 season, which both sides hope will begin on Jan. 13. Training camps could open as early as Jan. 1. There’s still sizeable work to be done on scheduling, COVID protocols, critical dates, etc.

And then, and this is key, once both sides finalize a season package, both sides will have to bring it to their respective constituents for clearance. The NHL’s Board of Governors and the NHLPA’s Executive Board will have to sign off on the plans. And because there will be temporary changes to the divisions this year, re-alignment generally requires two-thirds Board of Governors approval. So that’s what will likely be needed when the Board votes. There’s a Board of Governors meeting on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET.

LeBrun speculates that there won’t be many owners who will be willing to vote no because they didn’t get the players to agree to the financial terms that were previously “offered,” but the owners may still be concerned about shouldering financial losses on a season played without fans in the seats.

Right now, the owner that is the most upset is Jeremy Jacobs, the owner of the Boston Bruins. According to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, Jacobs and a few other owners are upset about the fact that the NHL gave the players a larger share of pay this season than some owners feel is affordable given that playing in empty arenas without fans (and concession sales, and parking where applicable, and merchandise sales, etc) will cost some franchises up to $150 million.

This group of owners is surely small, but if they’re led by Jeremy Jacobs, they’ll be vocal to Bettman. Right now, it appears that they’ll have to suck it up and deal as the NHL hammers out the finer details of the season, schedule, and deadline dates.

The biggest hurdle to getting the season started on January 13th may just wind up being the pandemic. The NFL and NCAA football have been having to deal with rising positive tests and postponed games as the numbers tick up. If the NHL decides to do divisional bubbles it may mitigate the risk, but the odds of having things go off without a hiccup a la the playoff bubble are smaller than they were in the summer.