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Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

At Random: Progress

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has called the start date of the next season a “work in progress,” and while that date remains a moving target, team governors and the NHLPA removed the matter of money from the working agreement they came to in July late Monday. That’s a major hurdle out of the mix.

The target date to start a new season has been bumped from Dec. 1 to Jan. 1 and is Jan.13 as of today. After failing to find much common ground in tweaking the memorandum of understanding they came to last summer – issues included an increase in deferred payments and caps on escrow, among other considerations – the teams and players have decided to leave things as they are.

That Jan. 13 start date still depends on finalizing divisional alignments and a working schedule – the plan as of today is 56 games — not to mention scheduling and duration of training camps and other protocols. As of now, there’s no plans to have teams play pre-season games. All of that, of course, is framed by what happens with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen infection numbers soar on both sides of the border.

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Taking the money out of the mix doesn’t guarantee anything in the shadow of COVID, but it at least kicks the financial can down the road and gives governors and the NHLPA rank-and-file one less issue to navigate. That’s at least some good news for Edmonton Oilers’ fans and fans right across the league who just want to see the puck dropped.

GETTING AFTER IT

May 28, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly speaks with media before game one of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

“We are moving forward with the process of working through all of the issues that need to be addressed and agreed to, and that are obviously unique to playing a season during a pandemic,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told Pierre LeBrun of TSN this morning.

And this from Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet: “I believe there is a short-term “hub plan” being worked on just in case, but it is not the preference. The biggest headache might be training camp plans in places like Montreal, San Jose (Arizona?) and Winnipeg, which have strict current restrictions due to COVID-19.

“It sounds like there’s a desire to get something done by the end of the week, to be voted on by the Board of Governors and the players. We’ll see where this goes, but the financial discussions are over.” The Friedman item is here.

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The status of the pandemic will impact every aspect of the start-up, from return to play date to schedule length, training camps and all of it. We won’t know what that status is until we see what the COVID numbers look like after Christmas and the accompanying health regulations that are put in place in response. Given that, I still think an early February start-up is more likely, but removing the financial component is unquestionably good news.

FROM TOUGH GUY TO TECH GUY

When you look up his playing career on Hockeydb.com or watch him slugging it out in the minor leagues with the Flint Generals, Todd Humphrey doesn’t jump to mind as the kind of guy you’d think would end up being hired as the senior VP of digital and fan experience with the expansion Seattle Kraken. Yet here he is.

Humphrey, who finished second to noted tough guy Mel (The Mangler) Angelstad with 357 PIM with Flint in the old Colonial Hockey League in 1994-95, started down the path that would lead him to the Kraken long before it became obvious he wasn’t going to make it to the NHL based on his ability as a player.

Humphrey, now 52, talked about that journey with Bryn Griffiths and I on our podcast Monday. It’s a success story that’s full of twists and turns and one that began years before he started playing Junior B with the Milton Merchants in 1986-87 — during a heart-to-heart talk with his mom.

“All I wanted to do was play hockey,” Humphrey said. “My mom said to me, ‘Uh-uh. You’re going to stick in school, you’re going to get grades, you’re going to go to college and you’re going to have a future after the game. You can go an excel as you can in this game, but you’re going to have a runway following the game.’

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“All the way through, I’ve been a really curious person, thinking about businesses and other things. Even while I was playing, I was always thinking about what’s next? It started with that statement from my mom, putting the hammer down. ‘You are going to think about life after.’”

Humphrey is a great story. Worth a listen if you have time.

Previously by Robin Brownlee