Report: NHL season to start in February 2021

ESPN's Greg Wyshynski with an inside scoop.

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A few weeks back longtime NHL reporter Larry Brooks of The New York Post reported that the NHL was effectively asking the NHLPA to ignore the terms of its Collective Bargaining Agreement agreed to just this past July. Instead, the NHL was asking for the players to give up an even bigger cut of their salary in order to have a profitable 2020-21 season. Despite negotiating a new contract with a 10% salary deferral just 4 months ago, Brooks reported that it was the NHL who changed their position and demanded that the players cough up an extra 13% and, in effect, defer a full quarter of their salary for next season.

From Brooks' article:

 The NHL is seeking financial concessions in the form of a 13 percent deferral on 2020-21 pay from players as an opening gambit in Return to Play negotiations for the 2020-21 season, multiple sources have told The Post.
It is unclear how the NHLPA, which agreed to a 10 percent deferral in the six-year collective bargaining agreement extension agreed upon by the parties just over four months ago in early July, will respond. Escrow will be capped — and set — at 20 percent for the season.

After some tense negotiations, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA president Donald Fehr effectively broke off communication for over a week in a high stakes game of chicken. Now though, NHL insider Pierre LeBrun reports that Bettman and Fehr are back to the negotiating table, despite the fact that Bettman maintains he's not trying to re-negotiate a deal.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is vehemently denying that the league is trying to re-negotiate their deal with the NHLPA and is simply looking for ways to "avoid stressing the system."

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Umm.... if this isn't a renegotiation then what do you call it, Gary? A shakedown? Because that's what it looks like on the outside.

In any case, ESPN's Greg Wyshynski reports that the league's proposed start date of January 1st has been pushed back at least a month and into February.

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Just... can we just get these guys back on the ice?

Look, I get it... on the one hand, what is the NHL supposed to do? There's no revenue coming in. On the other hand, they signed an agreement... an agreement that's so fresh that the ink still hasn't dried. They agreed to these terms just four months ago. 

Here's the real kicker though: the players really don't have any leverage in this situation. Does it suck that the NHL is going back on their own word? Of course, but frankly the players either get a smaller percentage of their salary or they get zero salary. Which would you choose?

Suffice it to say, things could get very, very, VERY contentious between the NHL and the NHLPA over the next few weeks. If there's any good news or a silver lining in all this confusion, it's the fact that Bettman and the NHL are at least committed to a "normal" season in 2021-22, thanks in large part to the COVID-19 vaccine set to hit North America early next year.

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