NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 1, 2020

by | Dec 1, 2020 | News, NHL | 10 comments

The latest on the stalled return-to-play talks between the NHL and NHLPA in today’s morning coffee headlines.

TSN: Darren Dreger reports the NHL still has Jan. 1 as its target date for starting the season but it is looking at a later date. They’re also looking at starting up training camp following the holidays in late December or early January. He also reports league commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr resumed discussions over the weekend and those talks continued on Monday. Dreger suggested a mid-January start is the likely target date.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (right) and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr (NHL.com).

Dreger also said the players remain unhappy over the league’s proposals for increased escrow and salary deferral rates. Some of them wonder why Bettman did offer up some sort of give-back from the owners before requesting another increase in those rates. He believes there’s still a lot of work to be done to reach common ground.

Jeff O’Neill ultimately believes the players will accept the league’s requests. Otherwise, they won’t play and won’t get paid for this season.

OTTAWA SUN: Bruce Garrioch cites NHL insider John Shannon reporting sources from the NHL and NHLPA confirm there have been discussions but no progress on revisiting this summer’s Memorandum of Understanding on the CBA extension.

Facing the prospect of starting the season with empty arenas due to COVID-19, the league is requesting another $300 million in savings from the players in the form of increased escrow and salary deferral rates. Garrioch points out the players have every right to kick the can down the road on escrow, but if they don’t more now they’ll have to do so in the latter years of the deal.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The good news is that at least Bettman and Fehr have resumed discussions. Dreger’s report also indicates the league is leaning toward a more realistic potential start date most of us anticipated for the season.

TORONTO STAR: Kevin McGran predicts it will take four weeks from the time an agreement is reached until the puck drops on the season. If it’s reached by early January the season could open in early February and conclude in late June.

McGran also reports Bettman kept the NHL owners out of this summer’s negotiations on the MOU extension to the CBA. The owners unanimously endorse it and it’s believed some did so solely on the commissioner’s recommendation. Having read the MOU after its ratification, some owners aren’t happy with it.

It could cost each team $150 million in operating costs for this season. Some owners have apparently told Bettman they would be better off financially by not playing. The players, meanwhile, aren’t happy with the league’s requests to lower their salaries from the agreed-upon 72 percent for this season to 55 percent.

McGran believes the players will ultimately bend because the CBA allows the league to suspend a season based on circumstances beyond its control. It’s in the financial best interest of the players to play.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Under the CBA, the players are entitled to no more than 50 percent of hockey-related revenue. Thus, it would make sense for the players to give back now to avoid paying back more down the road.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks last week argued the adoption of annual escrow caps coupled with unlinking the cap from actual HRR ended the assurance of a 50-50 split. That’s likely coming from the PA given Brooks’ sources within the union. I doubt that’s going to fly with the NHL owners.

The consensus among pundits is the players will have to agree to Bettman’s requests but the league will have to include a sweetener to make it enticing to the players. Plenty of suggestions have been bandied about but paying back the deferred salary with interest appears the best option. We’ll see what transpires in the coming weeks.

THE PROVINCE: Dr. Brian Conway, president and medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre, believes the NHL could minimize the type of COVID-19 outbreaks currently seen among NFL teams. He advocates adopting the NBA’s strict training camp virus prevention and detection protocols.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The league crafted its strict test policies for this summer’s return-to-play postseason plan by observing what worked and what didn’t with other sports leagues. I daresay they’ll follow the same plan to make adjustments for a regular-season schedule.


  1. I am in agreement with McGran on …” it will take four weeks from the time an agreement is reached until the puck drops on the season.”

    I don’t see training camp over the Christmas/New Years week…. starting training camps first or 2nd week in Jan with late Jan or 1/2 start much more likely

    Re potential of $150 M per team in operating costs and some teams “ better off financially by not playing”…… I’ve been saying this for a while. I’m positive that Meruelo is hoping and praying for no season at all. I could also see Viola (Panthers); McConnell (Jackets) ; and the Samuelis (Ducks) as well as others hoping for the same

    I disagree with “ players are entitled to no more than 50 percent of hockey-related revenue. Thus, it would make sense for the players to give back now to avoid paying back more down the road.“

    If they owe it they owe it. Whatever they are short in their 50% share, WILL be paid down the road. However, how will it be more? If after books are closed on the 20/21 (let’s now call it the ‘20) season, the players still owe say $400 M; they will still owe $400 M down the road. I have not heard of any interest payment clause in the CBA . Paying the fixed owed amount as far down the road as possible is to the benefit of the players. It’s basically an interest free loan

    The threat by owners to potentially cancel the session is real; but that threat is certainly not a unanimously held stance (see above). As mentioned above…. a few owners would relish a canceled year.

    • let’s now call it the ‘21 season

    • If you’re an older player in the league you would much prefer to see it pushed down the road; you know, when you’re no longer in the league.

      If some owners feel it’s better to have the season cancelled. Doesn’t this give the league the advantage in negations?

      I prefer not to play and cut my losses (owner) vs I prefer to play and cut my losses (player)

      In the end i do expect some sort of season

      • Agree Caper

        Marleau, Jumbo Joe, Chara say push it (shortfall payback) down the road a few years

        Re owners and wanting to cancel the season…. I would say that it is a handful that want to cancel the season; players likely aware of that; certainly not enough owners to get the cancelation (of season) vote passed

      • Covid itself will do that Pengy – the numbers aren’t getting any better on either side of the border and our evasive government refuses to give a direct answer to the direct questions “when will Canadians start to receive vaccinations, in what order and in what numbers?”

        Instead, as usual, we get political bafflegab.

        One of the companies to which we place “big orders” – one of the first to do so but without getting a firm answer at the time – has said only “Canada is near the top of the list.” How near? How many are in front of us? Don’t expect answers.

        If houses of worship and restaurants are being required – by police in some cases – to adhere to regulations about gathering, or else, what government – provincial or federal – would dare introduce relaxed criteria for a frikken sport? Hardly “essential” by any definition.

  2. I think the owners and players can work things out, with the players losing, but winning. A non-revenue year/non-playing year for a professional athlete can be a life changing experience so the motivation on that side to come to a deal, even if the fuse of future resentment is lit and burning brightly, is high.
    My fear remains the negotiations between the owners and the owners, between those who are debt fueled and those who have real money, between those who are traditional hockey people and those for whom the team is just another piece in the investment portfolio.
    We fans, who ultimately fund things, as usual get to sit and watch without input.

    • Richard, would contraction be a bad thing?

  3. Did Dreger really say that NHL still targeting Jan 1 season start but the training camp might not open until early January. So training camp starts after regular season underway ?! Is he still employed?

    • That’s my fault. I’ve amended it accordingly to indicate he also said they’re looking at a later start date for the season. That’s why they’re considering a start to training camp in late-December or early January following the Christmas holiday.

      • And we can’t lose sight of the fact that, since the league has agreed to allow the 7 non-play-in teams an extra week (in advance of the rest), they won’t want to commence training over the holiday period either.