NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 6, 2020
An update on negotiations for starting the 2020-21 season, the stalemate over escrow and salary deferrals, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun took to Twitter last night reporting some communication between the NHL and NHL Players’ Association but “nothing big to relay.” He feels this week will be important if the two sides hope to open the 2020-21 season by mid-January.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Jimmy Murphy recently cited usually pessimistic player agent Alan Walsh telling TSN 690 Montreal he’s “99.99999 percent sure we are playing hockey this year.”
NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks reports sources are saying an alternate plan involving a 48-game schedule beginning Feb. 1 appears the more likely option.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some might consider talk of staging the season during a pandemic as wishful thinking. Nevertheless, the league and the PA are determined to pull this off because both sides need whatever revenue they can get. They also don’t want to disappear from the sports calendar while other pro leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB) press on with their seasons.
There appears to be significant movement between the two sides in recent days toward agreement on a truncated regular-season schedule ending in early May at the latest, with the Stanley Cup awarded between late June and early July. The only hurdles are the course of the pandemic and sorting out the impasse over player salaries between the league and the PA. Speaking of which…
Brooks believes NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is right when he suggested last week it would be better if the players gave back more money to the owners this season rather than having escrow debt explode in the latter years of the CBA. Nevertheless, he still feels Bettman was out of line attempting to change the terms of the CBA regarding escrow caps and salary deferrals despite his insistence he wasn’t trying to renegotiate the deal.
Bettman is also facing heat by the owners after they were left mostly uninformed over the terms of the CBA extension and given little time to review the details before it was put to a vote. A half-dozen teams don’t want to play this season unless the players agree to those requested changes to escrow and salary deferrals.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The worst-case scenario was taken into account during negotiations on the CBA extension. Both sides must deal with the consequences.
The players are within their rights to reject the league’s requests. However, refusing to pay back more this season means potentially facing hundreds of millions of escrow debt to the owners down the road if hockey-related revenue is slow to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Recent media speculation suggests the players won’t agree to a hike in the escrow rate but could bend on the salary deferrals if they get something back from the league. Perhaps we’ll see some progress on that front by the end of this week.
THE WASHINGTON POST: Scientists are studying why there have been more cases of COVID-19 outbreaks in hockey than in other youth sports. They’re hoping to find clues about the ideal conditions in which the coronavirus thrives and how to stop it. There’s speculation the virus could be trapped around head level due to rinks that by design restrict airflow, temperature and humidity.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The NHL was able to prevent any coronavirus spread among its players during the 2020 playoffs due to rigorous testing of players and staff and regular cleaning of its facilities. Nevertheless, results from those studies of youth hockey could benefit the sport at every level during this pandemic.
NBC SPORTS: Former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow has joined the ownership group of the Jacksonville Icemen, the ECHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets and the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.