NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – May 1, 2020
The latest on the efforts to re-start the season, Steve Yzerman weighs in on staging the draft before the season, Georges Laraque hospitalized with COVID-19, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: League commissioner Gary Bettman said he’s in constant contact with NHL Players Association director Donald Fehr, praising the collaborative process between the two sides addressing the issues they’re facing during this pandemic. They’ve formed a Return to Play committee consisting of league executives and players.
“Having the committee that’s been put together with the players is important so that we can get the feedback on the issues that are important to them and how to resolve them, and that we can be communicating how we’re focusing on the things we think that need to be done,” said Bettman. “It’s been extraordinarily collaborative, constructive, and cooperative, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the interaction that we’re having.”
Bettman also said there’s no firm timeline as to when the league will resume the schedule, stressing the importance of ensuring the health and safety of the players. He confirmed a return to action will depend upon guidance from government health officials at all levels.
TSN: While the NHL is targeting mid-to-late May for its’ Phase 2 (reopening training facilities for small group workouts), Darren Dreger reports it won’t be mandatory for players to attend. It will be for training camp, which is tentatively slated to begin on June 1. He also said some suggest Phase 2 will not be initiated.
Dreger indicated there won’t be a resumption to the season unless the players have an allowance to visit their families. How to address that issue is in the discussion stage.
Pierre LeBrun reports talks for a new collective bargaining agreement were shelved when the pandemic happened, but the two sides have signaled an intent to resume those talks at some point. Given the financial impact of the pandemic, LeBrun believes it’s important to the team owners and the players to work out a long-term CBA extension.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league and the PA have to establish a better working relationship to navigate through these difficult times. Revenue will be affected in the short term, in turn affecting the salary cap. A potentially positive long-term outcome from this pandemic could see the two sides reach an agreement to a CBA extension without the usual rancor and work stoppages of the past. There was already an improvement in CBA negotiations between the two sides over the past couple of years. Perhaps labor peace will be the silver lining of this pandemic for NHL fans.
Frank Seravalli examined the challenges of televising NHL games should the schedule resume in arenas without fans. It will certainly sound different, as viewers will be hearing things from the players (good and bad) that would be otherwise drowned out by crowd noise. The sounds of the game will also come to the fore.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: On the plus side, you’ll hear players and coaches calling out direction and advice during the action. The downside (for some) will be hearing so much profanity that it’ll overwhelm the networks’ censors.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Alberta premier Jason Kenney said he hasn’t yet received a proposal from the NHL for the city of Edmonton to be a divisional host should the season resume. Nevertheless, he isn’t ruling out the possibility. “I think I can conceive of a way that they could put together a plan that follows our health guidelines with appropriate protective equipment and with nobody in the stands,” said Kenney. “If they came to us with a plan for limited and specific use of those facilities we would give it consideration.”
MLIVE.COM: Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman is skeptical about the possibility of staging the 2020 NHL draft before the resumption of the season. “My thought is why would you do that? Why would you need to do that? There’s a lot of things that are affected. Obviously, the draft position hasn’t been established. We don’t know who’s in the playoffs, who’s out of the playoffs in some cases,” said Yzerman. “So there’s a lot of questions and ultimately, if (the draft) needs to be done prior to, we’ll figure it out but at this time my own opinion is I haven’t heard a good reason why we should do it prior to the end of the season, if we do conclude the season.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: There was reportedly a lot of pushback among NHL general managers against the notion of staging the draft before the season resumes. I think Yzerman is the first GM to publicly express his concerns.
ESPN.COM: Greg Wyshynski suggests the NHLPA has leverage over the NHL it didn’t have before the pandemic. The players must approve any plan to resume the season. Nevertheless, there are hundreds of players with competing ambitions. “You’re talking about some players that are 19-year-old single guys that have been gaming the last couple of weeks. And then you’re talking about some players in their mid- to late-30s with three kids, and they have to worry about schooling and things like that. You have guys traveling back from Europe, and they’re probably going to need a couple of weeks of quarantine after that. There are so many variables,” said Washington Capitals defenseman Brenden Dillon.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: In the short term, escrow could be the determining factor. The players could face losing perhaps up to half of their salaries next season to escrow clawbacks if they vote against resuming the season. Nevertheless, this could work to the players’ long-term advantage if they gain some concessions from ownership in the next CBA.
LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL: Former NHL player Georges Laraque confirmed he’s been hospitalized with COVID-19. “I guess I’m not invincible, just got diagnosed with Covid, since I’m asthmatic, not the best news, will fight it off!”, he announced yesterday via social media. In a radio interview, he indicated he’d been feeling poorly for a week, including having difficulty breathing.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Laraque for a full and speedy recovery.
THE DENVER POST: Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets season-ticket holders continue to be charged for future seats despite widespread economic uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic.
NBC SPORTS: The Vancouver Canucks are donating $500K for COVID-19 relief.