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Gary Bettman issues NHL denial with season in trouble

Gary Bettman issues NHL denial with season in trouble

As the calendar flipped to December, the NHL’s target date of Jan. 1 for the start of the 2020-21 season is looking less and less attainable.

Between the coronavirus pandemic continuing to ravage the country and the NHL’s request to the NHL Players Association to revisit specific areas of the collective bargaining agreement, just four months after agreeing to a six-year extension, there are various issues that need to be resolved before the season can begin.

Commissioner Gary Bettman addressed the current state of the league in a wide-ranging interview on the Sports Business Journal’s “Dealmakers in Sports” program Wednesday, noting the Jan. 1 start date is “a work in progress, influenced largely by what we’re hearing from the medical experts.”

He added the NHL’s focus is finding a way through the 2020-21 season with the help of vaccinations to get back on a normal schedule a season that runs from October to April, by next fall.

“We talk to some pretty highly placed people, without name-dropping,” Bettman said. “COVID is going through a second wave, which could be worse than the first wave. And between Thanksgiving and the aftermath, we are taking our time and making sure that as we look for ways to move forward, we’re focused on health and safety and doing the right things.

“We are hopeful and optimistic based on everything we are hearing that we can get back to normalcy in 2021-22.”

In addition to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, word spread roughly two weeks ago that the league asked players to defer an additional 16 percent of base compensation for the season — on top of the 10 percent deferral that was originally negotiated in July.

Bettman vehemently declared the NHL was “not seeking to renegotiate” the CBA, which took into account potential economic distress created by the pandemic during the previous negotiations. Instead, Bettman pointed to the anticipated “stresses on the system” as to why the league requested an adjustment to the numbers.

He also expressed his displeasure with how the situation has been portrayed in the media, saying it’s “unfortunate” and “inaccurate.”

“We’ve been absolutely unequivocal with the players that we’re not trying to renegotiate,” Bettman said.

The Post’s Larry Brooks reported last month that the request to renegotiate the deferrals, as well as raise the escrow cap from 20 percent to 25 percent, angered the union membership. Following the league’s request, there was a reported week-long stalemate of discussions between the NHL and NHLPA.

TSN reported that a member of the 16-player Return to Play committee believes a start date between Jan. 20 and Feb. 1 makes more sense. There’s a strong belief that a full 82-game schedule isn’t possible at this point. A shortened 48-game season could be in play, similar to what the league implemented after the lockouts of 1994 and 2011.

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Erin Clark

Erin is a sports enthusiast who loves indulging in occasional football matches. She is a passionate journalist who flaunts a perfect hold over the English language. She currently caters her skills for the sports and health section of Report Door.

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