NHL Players Proposal For Return Could See Hockey In July And August

Remember that time we suggested the NHL could do a Summer League type deal though July and August? Turns out, we might just get it…

When the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over the weekend suggested that large mass gatherings should be off the table for at least the next eight weeks, it gave a lot of people more clarity in just how long we could be dealing with this pandemic. Eight weeks from now puts us around mid-May (May 10 to be exact) and some experts have suggested that the CDC’s eight week recommendation is a conservative estimate and that by the time May arrives, we could be given an extended timeline that could go into July.

With that in mind, as reported by TSN’s senior hockey reporter Frank Seravali, a group of NHL players have come up with a proposal that would see the NHL resume operations in July with the completion of the 2019-20 regular season and then the Stanley Cup Playoffs taking part in August and September.

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Once the Stanley Cup is awarded, the NHL has a very brief “off-season” that would see the regular three and a half month period of Draft and Free Agency signings be crammed into the single month of October.

After that, the new season for 2020-21 would start in November with a condensed 82 game schedule (hope you like back to backs and three games in four nights, because you’d get a lot more of them) that would put the NHL back on its regular cycle with the Stanley Cup being awarded in June of 2021.

It’s an ambitious plan and not unlike what happens when there is a stoppage in play late in a period during a hockey game. In some ways, this is very much like the game being forced to a stoppage with a minute or two left in a period. Teams will go into the dressing room for their intermission and the left over time is tacked on to the start of the following period. Once that time is played out, a brief minute is taken to reset for the next period, and then play resumes.

In essence, the players are suggesting we have the off-season now for what will be the next three months or so.

As Frank points out, as strong as an idea as this is (and it’s certainly far better than the proposed “all teams in playoff” that has been floated around) there are still some logistical issues that would need to be taken care of…

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The idea of a month long “off season” where the Draft and Free Agency takes place would seem to invite all kinds of chaos for NHL General Managers who as we saw last summer struggled to get multiple RFA’s signed before camps started.

A month long off-season wouldn’t be too much of an issue for players to stay in shape for the following season, but for teams that miss the playoffs or would be a first round exit, you’re talking about another two months or so without competitive hockey again after playing for two or three weeks. Likewise, teams that would go deep into the playoffs would be maybe a bit better prepared for the following season, but are also at a disadvantage with little recovery time.

It will be very interesting to see how the NHL handles this situation. Some have wondered if there really needs to be a completion of the 2019-20 regular season, but being that the NHL is a ‘gate driven league’ you can bet owners would like to see the remaining 12 to 14 games most teams have left to play this season be completed.