With the NHL and NHLPA inching closer to a resolution on the 2020-21 season, teams are beginning to prepare for the reality of a forthcoming campaign. While the Canadian clubs have issues to work out before the season can begin, the San Jose Sharks are another team facing questions. Santa Clara County has banned contact sports locally through at least January 8, a policy that was recently extended and could be extended again as Coronavirus numbers remain high. This proves problematic for the Sharks, who as a reigning non-playoff team would be eligible to begin training camp on December 31 and may need to host games as early as January 13.
The Sharks’ solution appears to lie in following a fellow Bay Area team south. An anonymous source tells the Associated Press that San Jose will open their season in Arizona, much like how the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers have moved to Arizona to conclude their own season. While there is no word on whether the Sharks will share a facility with the Arizona Coyotes as the 49ers have done with the Arizona Cardinals, that is the expectation. Fortunately, this move will not disrupt the NHL’s current plan for realigned divisions and exclusive inter-division play this season, as both teams have been slotted for a new-look Pacific Division.
The AP source remained anonymous on this issue as details both on the league’s return to play and on the Sharks’ move have not been finalized nor have they been made public. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly took the same approach, telling the AP that he would not discuss details related to the Sharks’ plans as details of the restart still need to be papered and voted upon by the NHL Board of Governors and NHLPA both. The Sharks have additionally declined to comment on the relocation proposal. However, given the lack of any contrary reports, the restrictions facing San Jose, and the path already paved by the 49ers, it is a safe bet that the Sharks are Arizona-bound at least to open training camp and to begin their 2020-21 season.