Just days after the NHL and the league's players association agreed to the start of a 56-game season for 2021, there appears to already be a snag. According to a report from TSN's Darren Dreger, the five Canadian provinces hosting NHL teams are asking for more safety measures to be put in place for the upcoming season.
Those demands include more testing and a potential bubble for the Canadian division that has been created for the 2021 season.
Sources say the 5 provinces have requested additional testing procedures, or have asked the NHL to consider a “bubble” model. If bubble isn’t an option for NHL, sources say a delay to start of season has also been suggested. The NHL is working on a response. Ongoing discussions.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) December 24, 2020
These requests come from a joint letter published on Wednesday and written by Alberta Health chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw. It lays out the two requested options that Dreger notes in the tweet, according to TSN. Here's a more detailed breakdown from the report.
The first option called for a "regular testing schedule for players, staff, coaches and close contacts, with close household contact testing required if players are living at home between travel episodes." It also asked for "enhancing the schedule ... to group games into blocks to limit inter-jurisdictional travel between provinces."
"Specifically in the early part of the season, it will be important to make these considerations wherever possible," Dr. Hinshaw wrote.
That is the NHL's best bet. Because the second option is decidedly less palatable. It called for the NHL to "reinstate a 'bubble' model for the beginning of the season, similar to what was used in the Hub City Series in Edmonton and Toronto."
The health authorities jointly said that they would support a "phased bubble model (full bubble for 4-6 weeks and then a modified bubble following) ... or a full bubble model would be most appropriate."
Should these requests not be met, the provinces have asked for the league to delay the start of the season. The question -- outside of how much the NHL and Canada communicated about this plan before moving forward with it -- then becomes how well equipped is the league to meet these demands so that the all-Canadian "North" division can move forward without further delay.
As for the first option the letter lays out, NHL's protocol calls for daily testing for team members only during training camp and the first four weeks of the regular season. The league will then reevaluate the need for continued daily testing after that deadline. With regards to family members, testing is available at the players' expense and only "when requested."
The letter reportedly ends with a the author noting that Canada does, in fact, want hockey to happen in the country for this upcoming season, just in a safer atmosphere than what they say has been currently offered. The NHL is expected to respond to the letter on Thursday, 20 days before the puck drops for opening night on Jan. 13.