Rick Zamperin: Upcoming NHL season begins to take shape

It appears we are one step closer to dropping the puck on the next National Hockey League season.

The NHL and the Players’ Association have reportedly agreed that the collective bargaining agreement that was negotiated last summer in an effort to complete last season during the COVID-19 pandemic will remain in place for the 2020-21 season.

That is a substantial move forward considering the league had recently asked the players to consider tweaking what they had already agreed to, including a proposal to defer more money and increase their escrow payments.

Read more: NHL now focusing on mid-January season start date, source tells Associated Press

Now that the contentious financial framework has been put to bed, both sides are looking at a potential start date for a 56-game season on Jan. 13.

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The plan would include training camps that would last 10 days, but no exhibition games would be played which would be bad news for those players who are not already penciled into their team’s starting roster.

But there remains a number of other key issues that still have to be ironed out before the first game can be played.

Re-alignment is one of them. There has been a lot of talk about creating an all-Canadian division, but the league must still coordinate what the three other divisions look like and how that affects the schedule.

Another key issue is how current pandemic restrictions, like the one that has forced the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers to play their home games in Arizona, will impact teams in hockey’s coronavirus ‘red zones.’

Read more: Jarome who? Boston TV station unknowingly interviews hockey legend Iginla about the weather

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The NHL will also have to decide if it wants to expand, or shrink, its playoff format and whether or not another bubble format will be needed at any point in the season.

As you can see, there is still some work to do before opening night but the good news is that at least the league appears to be skating forward instead of backchecking.

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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