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The National Hockey League and the players signed a tentative deal on Friday to hold a 56-game season from January 20 to early January 13, pending approval from the executive boards and Canadian health officials on each side.
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed that the parties had reached an agreement, pending the approval of various executive boards.
The board of the NHL Players Association is meeting on Friday night to discuss it, while the league’s board of governors may vote on the plan later this week. Approval from health officials in the five Canadian provinces that is still required for teams before the NHL can proceed with the season.
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Training camps for seven non-playoff teams will open on 31 December and then for the other 24 teams on 3 January. It is unclear whether the teams will play in their home arena or in “hub” cities, although a sub-divisional schedule is expected.
Exhibition games are not expected to be included in the leadup in the new season. Sportsnet first reported a temporary agreement in Canada.
The NHL, like the NBA, ended its last season in a different bubble – two of them, one each in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta. Commissioner Gary Bateman awarded the Stanley Cup to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the end of September in Edmonton.
The owners and players agreed to a long-term extension of the collective bargaining agreement before the start of the 2019–20 season, setting the table for the financial impact of the epidemic. They recently agreed to stick to the deal, which includes players with 10% salary, a cap of money they offer in escrow and a flat $ 81.5 million cap.
The NHL follows the NBA in moving to another regular season. The basketball season opens on Tuesday.
One hurdle remains, where seven Canadian teams will play. The original plan was to keep them in a single division, although tough epidemic restrictions north of the border limited this week.
“The resumption of sporting events in Canada should follow measures to reduce the import and spread of COVID-19,” the Canadian Public Health Agency said in a statement Thursday night. “NHL teams and other professional sports must operate within the rules of their provincial jurisdiction for sports or sporting events.”
Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays played in Buffalo, New York last season, and the NBA’s Toronto Raptors relocated to Tampa, Florida, due to government restrictions. The NHL has so far an American team that may need a new home: the San Jose Sharks, who play in Santa Clara County, California, which imposed a temporary ban on professional and collegiate team sports, which led the NFL’s San Francisco has influenced the 49ers.
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