A look at how this suspended NHL season might play out when the year resumes
This is not the ideal situation for any sports fan. The NHL, like the NBA, was just entering its playoff push when the 2019-2020 seasons were suspended until further notice. Teams played an uneven number of games, and leagues are now looking at seasons extending into August with shortened offseasons and going right into the 2020-2021 seasons. Again, not ideal.
There are many complications with this model, the first and foremost is the unknown of the COVID-19 virus and if/when there will be a return to normalcy in this country. It is going to get much, much worse before it gets better. The sooner the entire country is shut down, the faster we can eradicate the threat. But on the current path –especially outside of NY– this could stretch out for months.
Given the lack of federal guidelines and an irresponsible population that doesn’t seem to care, we are likely dealing with the latter situation. This is going to be months, not weeks, of life without sports, pushing us into June if/when the seasons can finally get underway.
For hockey, this poses many difficult challenges. People will point to arena availability, but very few of these arenas are packed in the summers. Concerts maybe. This is a concern, but not THE concern.
The concern is player contracts. Pending UFAs and RFAs have contracts that expire on June 30, which will be long before the season’s activities would be completed. I’m sure the NHL and NHLPA are discussing the logistics of how that might work. Given that players are not getting paid right now (I don’t think), it probably shouldn’t be too hard to work out.
But let’s play out this situation, using June 1 as a date the sports world resumes. The league needs at least 2 weeks of camp/”preseason” to get the ball rolling. Maybe they jump right into the playoffs by say, June 17. The playoffs usually take two months, so let’s go with that. Playoffs end August 17ish.
The means the 2020 offseason probably takes 6 weeks. That brings the offseason to the end of September. Camp and preseason through October, with season openers in November. The league is used to playing truncated seasons, so getting 82 games in by the end of April 2021 shouldn’t be too difficult. Then the 2021 offseason is as we normally see it.
Perhaps this is overly optimistic, as the lack of united plan as a country is going to delay everything going forward. The moral of the story here is that this is a very fluid situation, but hopefully things can get started in June. Just my speculation, of course.