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Report: NHL still hopes to begin season in early January

Graig Abel / World Cup of Hockey / Getty

The NHL isn't straying too far from its original goal of starting the season on Jan. 1, even though that date is just a month away and the format has yet to be determined.

The league still hopes to drop the puck in early January, TSN's Pierre LeBrun reports.

Obstacles appear to stem from the NHL and players' association's ongoing negotiations, but a source told LeBrun that talks have continued.

Both sides agreed to a new six-year collective bargaining agreement before the league's return to play over the summer that accounted for the expected financial repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. The union agreed to 10% salary deferrals with escrow capping at 20%. That money was agreed to be paid in three equal, interest-free installments in October 2022, 2023, 2024.

However, the league has reportedly asked for players to defer 20% of their salaries while escrow increases to 25%. This request has reportedly left the players feeling angry and betrayed, as they came to an agreement less than six months ago.

It was recently reported that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr hadn't spoken to each other from Nov. 19 through at least Nov. 25, though the silence between the sides appears to be over.

A recent spike in COVID-19 cases could also add to the challenge of starting the season on time. The NFL, for example, has been hit with a wave of positive tests, causing multiple game postponements and teams to play shorthanded.

The format for the NHL season remains unclear, but an all-Canadian division appears likely given the country's current border restrictions. The league is also reportedly considering having teams play in their own rinks while conducting MLB-like series of two-to-three games. It was reported in early November that 48 games are the fewest that the league will agree to for the upcoming campaign.

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