NBA, NHL considering paths forward

The two leagues, which both finished last season within a bubble, deliberate what’s next


James, fresh off winning another championship, has made it clear he will not partake when the NBA season begins in December (Ashley Landis/Pool/Getty Images/TNS)

Cooper Sullivan, Staff Writer

On Nov. 5, after many meetings of deliberation and weeks of speculation, the NBA and the Players’ Association agreed upon Dec. 22 as the start date for the 2020-2021 season. This decision comes almost a month after Lebron James and the Los Angeles Lakers added another championship chapter to the storied franchise’s legacy. This will be the shortest offseason ever in the major four American sports leagues, clocking in at 72 days long. Prior to this offseason, the shortest NBA break was 127 days during the summer of 2017.

The NBA draft is scheduled for Nov. 18 but the start date for training camps has yet to be announced. The most likely date will be Dec. 1 as this date has already been approved by NBPA team representatives. This means about three weeks for rookies and free agents to become acclimated to their new team, instead of the typical 20 weeks normally between the draft and the season opener. Free agency will begin on Nov. 20 and signings can ensue on Nov. 22, per Adrian Wojnarowski.

The 72-game season has received mixed criticism from players as many were in favor of a 60-game season starting in mid-January. Per, the league took the potential loss of revenue into account, seeing a difference of nearly $500 million between the two options. Players who were present in the NBA bubble are more concerned about the lack of rest rather than lack of money for the owners. Eight teams will have not played in a competitive game in nearly nine months due to their ineligibility for the NBA bubble. Along with the training camp dates, details such as player safety, fan attendance, and emergency plans will not be decided until the next round of negotiations between the league and players’ association. 

The NHL concluded its season in late September and held its annual draft a few weeks later. As rookies are letting the ink on their newly-signed contracts dry, the league is still trying to determine when players can return to the rink. Reports from Greg Wyshanski of ESPN say that the target start date is Jan. 1, but is tentative as no official announcement by the NHL or NHLPA has been made. Training camp dates are also still unknown, but teams may host voluntary workouts at their facilities if compliant with COVID-19 protocols.

If the New Year’s Day start date holds true, this offseason will be the NHL’s shortest ever at 94 days, five less than the previous spot. The 2013 offseason was forced short as the lockout the previous season had forced the 2012-13 season to finish later than expected. Calgary Flames center Mark Giordano says that they skate “three or four days a week” but leave the the training schedule up to the coaching staff in order to prevent tire before the season inevitably begins.

Both leagues restarted their 2020 seasons with strict bubble rules that lead to zero cases and no postponed games. These are issues that the frequent travelling MLB and NFL have both been struggling to manage. While it has not been confirmed, both leagues are optimistic that fans will eventually be able to return to the stands and cheer on their favorite team, most likely meaning that there will not be a neutral location where games will be played.