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Still no certainties on 2020–21 NHL season after GM call

Quickie blog on Friday’s NHL GM call:

Like every hockey fan on the planet, the league’s general managers have been waiting for some definitive details about the 2020–21 NHL season. However, there are still so many unknowns (border, recent COVID spikes across North America) that any certainties are way too premature. The league has re-iterated that Jan. 1 remains its “target date,” but, again, no guarantees.

All the questions you have: How many games? How far will we play into the summer? There aren’t concrete answers — yet.

There were multiple reports Friday that the NBA informed its Board of Governors it is targeting either Dec. 22 or Dec. 25 as the start of the 2020–21 season, with 72 games to be played. In a perfect world, the NHL would do something similar — playing as close to 82 games as possible, finishing before the Summer Olympics, returning to its “normal” schedule for 2021–22. But this is far from a perfect world, and getting ready for those dates will be a challenge for the NBA.

Two things we do know: The NHL and NHLPA are about to step up their conversations; and there is an appetite to start next season with something unique.

The NHLPA is finalizing its Return to Play Committee; the players on it will be submitted to its Executive Board sometime next week for approval. It won’t be long afterwards that it engages with the NHL. As for the start of next season, the Toronto’s Star’s Mark Zwolinski reported two weeks ago that the league was in discussions about dropping the puck outdoors in beautiful Lake Louise, Alta.

That won’t happen — one of the reasons is that sponsorship opportunities are limited in a federal park — but the idea remains.

A good chunk of the two-hour discussion was spent on the draft lottery. There are calls to change the format, to increase the odds for teams that finish lowest. While there’s a recognition this was a unique year and not the norm, Detroit was incredibly upset with dropping to fourth after a season where it was clear the Red Wings were not tanking.

The league last tinkered with the odds in 2015, dropping the last-place finisher’s chances of winning from 25 to 20 per cent. Detroit does have support for its position, but the league asked for specific proposals.

That’s all for now. Enjoy your weekend.

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Written by Sportsnet

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