The NHL won't replicate its two-bubble format for the full 2020-21 campaign, but it may explore a hybrid concept.
The idea of utilizing four-to-six bubble environments next season "has been kicked around on a preliminary basis," reports TSN's Frank Seravalli. Seravalli adds that the bubbles would ideally be located in cities where fans are allowed in arenas.
At least one bubble would be in Canada in this scenario, and an all-Canadian division is a "distinct possibility" given current restrictions on cross-border travel, according to Seravalli.
The concept would also reportedly see players on a rotation, spending two weeks inside the bubble and then one week at home with their families before re-entering. Teams would play roughly 12 games per month.
Such an idea would face several hurdles, most notably the fact the NHL must likely conclude the 2020-21 season before NBC, the league's rightsholder in the U.S., begins covering the Olympics in Tokyo on July 22. The league would likely have to cut its season to 48 or 60 contests under the hybrid concept as a result.
Seravalli notes the NHL would also face the possibility of reintroducing potentially infected individuals into a protected environment.
The league and the National Hockey League Players' Association are reportedly likely to schedule a meeting next week to open talks regarding logistics for next season.
NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr has said players don't want to spend an entire campaign in quarantine.
"Certainly not for a season, of course not," Fehr told The Associated Press' Stephen Whyno on Sunday. "Nobody is going to do that for four months or six months or something like that.
"Whether we could create some protected environments (where) people would be tested and they'd be clean when they came in and (that) lasted for some substantially shorter period of time with people cycling in and out is one of the things I suspect we will examine."
Under the reported hybrid concept, teams would begin the season in bubbles and eventually host limited-attendance games in their home arenas. The league would then have more facilities operating at full capacity for the postseason.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said earlier in September it's possible the league takes such an approach, though he added "there's still too much we don't know." He also noted any attempt to guess when next season will begin is "nothing more than speculation."