Are the NHL and AHL going to have to settle on a 35-game season amidst a rampant COVID surge in North America?
This past week, longtime Between The Glass Analyst for NHL On NBC Pierre McGuire raised some ears on TSN 690 in Montreal when he once again said that 35, not 48 games were his minimum amount of games needed to complete the 2021 NHL regular season. McGuire pointed out the fact that Major League Baseball played 100 fewer games this past season and crowned a champion just as the NHL was able to hoist the Stanley Cup.
“Ok so let’s just say to be fair, they played 100 fewer games and they considered the Los Angeles Dodgers a World Champion,” McGuire pointed out. “And Tampa to be a great team to go to the Final. They played a 100 fewer games! So don’t tell me that 35 games in an NHL season wouldn’t be an NHL season.”
McGuire went on to point out the fact that COVID19 is running rampant in the United States and in Canada.
“They are running upstream on this,” McGuire said of the push the NHL and NHLPA are making to have a 2021 season. “They are doing everything they can.”
In an exclusive one-on-one phoner with Boston Hockey Now recently, President and CEO of the American Hockey League Scott Howson, agreed with McGuire and stressed that at this point, both leagues, teams, and fans need to be grateful for whatever the NHL and AHL can salvage amidst a devastating second wave of COVID in North America.
“Well, I think a 35-game season is better than no season in any league,” Howson said emphatically. “So no I don’t think it’s too low. I think we’re in such a different time right now and whatever we do, whatever any league does, is not going to look good or look perfect. I think it’s going to be a challenge and we’re just gathering as much information as we can and we’re gonna make the best decision we can at the time.
I’ve said this all along; we gotta be flexible, we gotta be nimble. We don’t know what next week is going to look like, let alone February 5, and we’ll just try and plan as best we can and be ready to be flexible to change plans whenever we have to.”
That February 5 date Howson referred to is the date the AHL announced they were shooting for recently but the NHL is just getting started on their mission to repeat the success they had in staging a successful NHL Return To Play this summer and crowning a Stanley Cup champion with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The NHLPA recently added more members to the NHL Return To Play Committee and talks are imminent but as Howson pointed out, there’s going to come a time really soon where the AHL will have to figure out if it’s even worth having a season.
“Well, I think it’s going to be a challenge no matter what date we start with the way COVID is going,” Howson pointed out. “Now it’s getting worse in Canada too and they’re having some shutdowns in Winnipeg and across Ontario. So, the later obviously the better but then you’re going to reach a point where it doesn’t make sense to have a season. So we just thought that February 5 was the right date to try and put the stake in the ground and try and get our season off at that time.”