NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke with reporters via Zoom today as part of his annual State of the Union before the Stanley Cup Final gets underway. Here are some of the key highlights as relayed by Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press (Twitter thread) unless otherwise indicated.
- While there is no firm timetable in place, Bettman indicated that he wouldn’t be surprised if the start of next season slips into late December or early January. The early plans were to start at the beginning of December with training camps beginning roughly two months from now but that hasn’t seemed like a probable outcome for a while.
- Although there has been some speculation about a possible Canadian division next season to reduce the amount of out-of-country travel, Bettman didn’t want to speculate on it but added that they are considering all possibilities at this point.
- The NHL is a league that greatly relies on gate revenue and Bettman suggests that the league derives at least half of their revenue from that particular stream. If you were curious to know how much of their revenue could be lost by trying to play with no fans for an entire year, that’s what they could stand to lose and why they’d prefer to try to push things back at this point in the hopes of getting at least some fans in. However, he conceded that they could start the season without fans with an eye on bringing some in gradually as time progresses, per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston (via Twitter).
- The expanded playoff format this year that had 24 teams participate is not something that is going to be continued, notes NHL.com’s Dan Rosen (Twitter link). Bettman stated that “It will take a fair amount of convincing to me at least that we need to make a change” so it appears things will go back to the traditional 16-team format next season.
- At this time, the focus remains on playing a full 82-game campaign in 2020-21, via Postmedia’s Bruce Garrioch (Twitter link). While not directly mentioned, many regional television contracts have that number built in with penalties if they play fewer than that many. That was the case this season and it’s something they’d certainly like to avoid repeating. It’s worth noting that their broadcast partner in NBC has the rights to the Olympics which are scheduled to start on July 22nd which could represent a target date for the playoffs to be completed.
- While the end of next season is certainly going to be delayed from its usual time in June, this will not affect the Seattle Kraken’s timeline for their entry into the league for 2021-22.
- No decision has been made yet on the status of the 2021 Winter Classic which is scheduled to take place in Minnesota, notes Rosen (via Twitter). While it’s one of their marquee events and could even make for an interesting start point to next season, it would lose a lot of its intrigue if no fans were allowed to be in attendance.