Speaking publicly for the first time since the Stanley Cup Final, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday at a virtual sports conference that the league’s targeted Jan. 1 start date remains “a work in progress influenced largely by what we’re hearing from medical experts.”
Bettman did not move off the Jan. 1 target, no matter how unrealistic it may be to pull off now, while COVID-19 numbers continue to skyrocket across North America and the NHL and NHL Players’ Association remain at odds over the financial terms of the 2021 season.
“COVID is going through a second wave, which could be worse than the first wave,” Bettman said. “And between [U.S.] Thanksgiving and the aftermath and what they think is going to happen for Christmas 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.”
Health and safety concerns are only part of the reason why the NHL has not nailed down a date to drop the puck in 2021.
The NHL has requested players defer additional salary for the 2021 season, an ask that temporarily iced communication between Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr.
But on Wednesday, in conversation with FOX Business host Liz Claman at Sports Business Journal’s 2020 Dealmakers in Sports virtual conference, Bettman said the NHL is “not seeking to renegotiate” the six-year Collective Bargaining Agreement extension that was unanimously ratified by owners in July.