BOSTON (CBS) — The NHL’s two-bubble system over the summer was tremendously successful. Now, the NHL is hard at work trying to establish plans for an equally functional regular season for 2020-21.
That won’t be quite so simple as the bubble system, and the NHL is considering a number of options.
Among those possibilities: a shortened season, hub cities, and temporary realignment.
With regard to hub cities, the approach would be something of a hybrid between a bubble like the NBA and NHL used and a non-bubble system, which has proven to cause major headaches for MLB and the NFL.
“You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday, per NHL.com. “It’s not going to be quite as effective as a bubble, but we think we can, if we go this route, minimize the risks to the extent practical and sensible. And so that’s one of the things that we’re talking about.”
COVID-19-based travel restrictions certainly can complicate matters further, which is why Bettman mentioned the possibility for temporary realignment, based on geography.
“We may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, and that may make sense, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense,” Bettman said. “It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically-centric, more divisional-based, and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues.”
For any such changes to go into effect, the league would have to reach an agreement with the NHL Players’ Association. Substantial meetings are expected to take place this week, with the goal of starting the season on Jan. 1.