Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo was just as excited as everyone with the news that the American Hockey League has set a tentative date of February 5, 2021 to start their regular season. Like his fellow NHL players and NHL fans, the Bruins NHLPA player rep has optimism that an official target date could be coming. Make no mistake though, unlike fans and media, Carlo and the NHLPA are still committed to squeezing in an entire 82-game NHL regular season.
“I think our biggest goal is to play 82 games,” Carlo told the Boston Hockey Now podcast Thursday. “We have a deal in place that we went through right before we went into the bubble and we want to stick to that deal. The opportunity. …January 1 is what we obviously hope for and is the tentative date that they’ve set out there but like I said, with the whole COVID situation, like everybody in the world, if we have to adjust, then we have to adjust. So the goal right now I would say is 82 games and all the players and everybody is on board for wanting that.”
Given the recent undertones and speculation that if, as seems to be more realistic, the NHL regular season is shortened in order to have the Stanley Cup be raised before the NBC coverage of the Tokyo Summer Olympics that begin on July 23, the fact the NHLPA and NHL are clearly still focused on 82 games is worth watching.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement does not have a clause in it that states player salaries would be prorated due to a truncated season but there has been growing chatter the NHL will look to amend that should the pandemic dictate so. Carlo and the NHLPA, just like the NHL, would love to get 82 games in and avoid more labor strife that could delay the beginning of the season even more.
Another stumbling block to the start of the next NHL regular season will be if the players need to enter an NHL bubble again. The players and the league pulled off an amazing feat in completing the NHL Return To Play in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles without one positive case of COVID19 from start to finish. The fact that the Stanley Cup was rewarded will always be one of the league’s greatest accomplishments. That all being said there was plenty of criticism from and of life inside the bubble and the thought of being locked down again for a whole season is not enticing for players.
“I don’t think it’s wrong to say that there would probably be a little bit of a hesitancy but overall, I think that we’re open to a lot of ideas,” the Boston Bruins defenseman said. “The best way that we can make it work is the best way that we can make it work and we all want to play hockey; we all want to be there. Family is the biggest part to all of that.
These guys, especially in Boston that I’ve seen, need to be around their families in order to function. So, the biggest part of their entire life is families first and then hockey. So, as long as we can clear up an aspect with that, I would hope that everybody would be excited to play.”
Family was the reason Carlo’s teammate Tuukka Rask left the Toronto bubble just prior to Game 3 of the first round playoff series with the Carolina Hurricanes. The Boston Bruins have repeatedly expressed their support of Rask’s decision to suddenly leave his team and the Stanley Cup Playoffs to head back to Boston for a family emergency, that (as reported here) the public later found out was to be with his sick daughter. Carlo reiterated that support Thursday.
“From the outside perspective, it’s hard because you don’t have all the information,” Carlo acknowledged. “You don’t understand that his daughter was going through something at that point and within our group and within our organization being in the bubble, I can tell you the support for him was more than 100 percent. We were all very happy for him to be able to do what he needed to do and we understand that that’s the most important thing.
So, it is hard and it’s just like anything else when you’re in a position like his, you’re gonna receive criticism in a lot of different aspects, but for that one, with a family-related issue, you obviously stand on the side of that guy and want to protect him.”
Here’s the full interview on the BHN Podcast: