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Photo Credit: Dave Sandford/NHLI via USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW(SE): The 2021 NHL Season

When it comes to offseason decisions for the National Hockey League, the biggest choice that I think all of us will be watching is what the league will do in terms of putting together the 2021 season. In this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday (Saturday Edition), I want to know what kind of ideas you have for what that might look like?

I don’t think I’m talking out of school when I say that this is undoubtedly one of the strangest offseasons in NHL history. Not only are the timelines pushed back by a few months from normal which is bizarre in itself, but we still don’t have any idea of what the next season will look like or even when it will get started. At this point, we’ve already had the date pushed back from December 1st to January 1st and it wouldn’t exactly surprise me if there are further delays over and above what’s already going on. Obviously, for all of us, the idea of losing a season is a tough pill to swallow but it’s probably a possibility that we should all start wrapping our heads around, especially since we don’t really have much information on what the league is planning.

Back in late September, TSN’s Frank Seravalli wrote about what the next season may look like, including the potential for a rotating bubble-type system where teams would fly in and out of a few different locations to play their games before heading back home and repeating the cycle. To this point, Frank’s article is one of the only things I’ve seen with some legitimate ideas on what the NHL may need to do if they’re going to make a season work. If you need a refresher, here are the main points from the article:

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This hybrid bubble concept would include a rotation of two weeks in the bubble, followed by one week at home where players can regroup with their families, then rotating back in for another two weeks before returning home again.

The thinking is that each team would be able to play approximately 12 games per month, which is doable given that there will be no travel between games other than flying in and out.

One major schedule sticking point is that the NHL likely needs to conclude the 2021 season before July 22, when its American television rightsholder, NBC, flips to coverage of the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. With 12 games per month, that could allow for a shortened 48- or 60-game regular season in four or five months.

The key to a hybrid bubble concept is that it is not permanent.

The plan would be to start the season in hybrid bubbles, then progress to teams hosting games in their home arenas and cities with limited capacity, before hopefully ramping up closer to full capacity in time for the playoffs.

The format of the 2021 season hinges largely on how the science and local health authority regulations that evolve over the next months and as the calendar turns.

Now, it goes without saying that the bubble system is incredibly effective as we saw in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but I don’t think it’s a realistic option to expect players to be away from their families for that length of time again. Not only would it be unfair to expect them to head back into the bubble and be away from their families for an extended period of time, but I also don’t think the league would be in too much of a rush to ask either. That’s where you come in. I want to know what kind of ideas you guys have for a realistic way that the NHL could make a season happen in 2021.

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Maybe you think the NHL will go with the rotating bubbles as Frank Seravalli wrote about above? Maybe you think they should proceed as normal with a small percentage of fans allowed in the buildings until we get a handle on things? Maybe you think the NHL won’t even have a season in 2021 because the financial risk doesn’t sense from a business perspective? Maybe you’ve got an idea in that big ol’ brain of yours that I haven’t even thought of and your wizardry is going to bend space and time?

What say you, Nation? In this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday (Saturday Edition), I want to know how you think the NHL could proceed with the 2021 season and what would it look like? 

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