As of writing, it looks like the NHL has a plan in place to return to hockey.
While this is obviously great news and will give people something to watch for the next couple of months, I wanted to write about the impact of this moving forward into future seasons after this one.
These are some of the details as reported by Frank Seravalli of TSN.
- Any player wishing to opt out of the league’s return plan can do so without facing any discipline.
- The salary cap upper-limit will be frozen at $81.5 million until hockey-related revenue hits $4.8 billion – the amount projected for the current season before the pandemic shut it down.
- As previously reported, NHLers will participate in the 2022 (Beijing) and 2026 (Milan) Olympics pending agreement with the IOC.
- Escrow for players will be capped at 20% next season, and that total will dip to 6% by 2025-26.
- Players will defer 10% of salary and signing bonuses next season, which will be paid back in three instalments in 2023-24, 2024-25, and 2025-26.
- All no-trade and no-move clauses will travel with players to their new teams if they are dealt, even if the clause hasn’t kicked in yet.
- Training camps opening July 13, with teams reporting to their respective hubs by July 26. Qualifying-round games are scheduled to begin Aug. 1, and the Stanley Cup is to be awarded in early October.
- The second phase of the NHL Draft Lottery will be held Aug. 10, with the draft itself taking place in mid-October. Free agency will kick off Nov. 1.
So the most prominent point I took from this news is that next season will, presumably, start a different time than what most fans are used to.
I actually think that this is great for the NHL to get more fan interest and people buying into the product.
Let me explain.
So starting a winter sport in winter seems pretty logical to me. (Note: This is based on the assumption that the next season will begin in December or January)
Another thing I want to point out is when the NHL playoffs would be. In this new start date for the season, the playoffs would start sometime in July.
In a typical sports year, that is considered a “dead” period for sports with only MLB taking up most of the time on North American TV.
By putting your most important games at that time will give people who are craving sports, something that is easy to find, watch, very entertaining and competitive.
In baseball, this is the middle of the season and can be seen as tiresome to some casual fans.
I think by having the season start in December, you can get new fans interested in your sport when the weather conditions match the sport.
Another good reason to start a season in December is that you have less time to compete with the NFL for ratings. (It has gotten so bad on Sundays that the NHL would never dream of putting a game in direct competition with Sunday Night Football)
You only compete with the NFL for two months, and then that’s it. By the time the NHL season would be over in this scenario, the NFL would be just starting to come back.
It makes perfect sense to have the season start in December, and it should stay there for the foreseeable future.