NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 8, 2020
NHL, NHLPA target 56-game schedule starting Jan. 13, agree not to change the economic framework of CBA extension. Details and more in the morning coffee headlines.
SPORTSNET/TSN: Elliotte Friedman and Darren Dreger reported the NHL and NHLPA continue discussions aimed at a 56-game schedule beginning Jan. 13. Friedman indicates that includes “Training camps, opt-outs, testing, the schedule, the playoffs, re-alignment, you name it.”
Friedman also reports last season’s non-playoff clubs would begin training camp on Dec. 28 while the other 24 clubs begin on Jan. 1. It appears there won’t be any exhibition games. He also believes a short-term “hub plan” is being worked on but the preference remains for all teams playing in their home arenas. A potential problem is staging training camps in cities with strict COVID-19 restrictions such as Montreal, San Jose and Winnipeg.
Pierre LeBrun reports the plan will require approval from the NHL board of governors and the NHLPA membership. Friedman said there’s a desire to have it ready for approval by the end of this week.
The stalemate between the NHL and NHLPA over the league’s requests for increased escrow and salary deferral rates has ended with both sides agreeing the economic framework of the CBA won’t be changed.
Friedman and Dreger reported the players refused to consider any changes to escrow. On Sunday, they proposed to defer additional monies but wanted a significant concession from the league. Friedman reports one of their suggestions was a slight increase to the salary cap to put more money into the system. While that would’ve affected how much the players would have to give back to maintain the 50-50 revenue split, Friedman said the escrow caps in place weren’t a concern to the current group of players.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The dispute over the escrow and deferral rates was a significant obstacle. The players’ refusal to budge appears to have forced the league to consider other options to make up a potential revenue shortfall.
A cap on escrow was what the players wanted and they were justified in insisting the league abide by the agreement. They could end up owing the league much more in escrow debt toward the end of the CBA extension but they seem willing to accept that potential consequence.
Both sides want to stage a season because there’s a lot at stake here. They cannot afford not to play when other major pro leagues are carrying on with their respective schedules. There are broadcasting and advertising contracts to be honored and the potential for a lucrative new US TV deal at the end of this season.
Some readers suggested the league could afford to shut down this season because of the three lockouts since 1994-95. The difference is league headquarters and the team owners were financially prepared for work stoppages arising from labor disputes with the NHLPA. They weren’t ready for the effects of a pandemic, plus they would face a strong legal challenge from the PA.
So how will the NHL find the $300 million they tried to squeeze from the players to stage this season? ESPN.com’s Emily Kaplan reports sources are saying the league is looking into a loan plan similar to that used by the NBA to provide its teams with cash to protect their finances ahead of this season.
That Jan. 13 start date could be flexible. Prior to last night’s reports, Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley told Fox Business the season could open on Jan. 15 with the possibility it might have to slide by a week or two. Nevertheless, Foley is confident his club will be playing this season at their home arena, though it could be without fans in attendance.
IN OTHER NEWS…
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER’s Sam Carchidi reports the Flyers are close to agreeing to a contract with Philippe Myers. “Could happen this week.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Myers is a restricted free agent coming out of his entry-level contract. It’ll be interesting to see if he gets a bridge contract or a long-term deal. We can probably expect signings of RFAs and unrestricted free agents will pick up once the Jan. 13 start date for this season is formally approved.
TAMPA BAY TIMES: The Lightning hired Rob Zettler to replace departed assistant coach Todd Richards. Zettler, a former NHL defenseman, is also the former head coach of the Lightning’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse. He worked as an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks from 2017 to 2019.
IIHF.COM: International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel and general secretary Horst Lichtner have tested positive for COVID-19. This will not affect the IIHF’s preparations for the upcoming 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton.
SPORTSNET: The entire Northeast Division of the ECHL plus the Atlanta Gladiators and Norfolk Admirals have suspended play for the 2020-21 season under the league’s COVID-19 policy. The teams intend to return in 2021-22. Most are minor-league affiliates for several NHL clubs.
TORONTO STAR: A mint condition 1979 Wayne Gretzky card could become hockey’s first $1 million collectible card.