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NHL reportedly shifts focus to Jan. 15 start date but financial hurdles remain

Justin Cuthbert
·2-min read
The stalemate between the NHL and its players appears like it's beginning to thaw. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
The stalemate between the NHL and its players appears like it's beginning to thaw. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

It appears Carolina Hurricanes GM Don Waddell wasn’t speaking out of turn when he hinted at a recent media appearance that some positive news could be coming in respect to the NHL’s return plans.

After weeks of stalemate and inaction, multiple reports surfaced Friday morning that are pointing to momentum behind a Jan. 15 start date for the 2021 season. Hitting the ice only two weeks behind the original target date of New Year’s Day, it seems the league and the players believe they can squeeze 50-plus games into a schedule while still handing out the Stanley Cup in early July.

That means training camps could all be underway around Jan. 1, with the handful of teams that failed to qualify for the summer restart (and therefore haven’t convened in eight months) allowed to start their ramp up a few days prior.

Of course, the most significant hurdle (beyond, y’know, running the league amid a pandemic) remains the financial piece. What’s led to the issues, emotion and recent silence throughout the negotiation process has been the owners’ ask to tap further into the mechanisms which balance the revenue sharing system.

The big one is escrow, which the players want to staunchly avoid, as it is essentially just money forfeited back to ownership.

So the reason for the positive momentum might be entirely due to this: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman shared what he knew about the developments on Toronto radio Friday morning, saying that “it sounds like the escrow ask” is “going away.” Friedman notes that it probably means the players will have to accept more deferrals with their immediate pay in order for the final financial details to be ironed out completely.

Until that’s done, we can’t know for sure. But the prospects of the NHL returning seem far greater now than they did even a few days ago.

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