The concept and execution of a bubble has allowed the NHL postseason to safely reach the Stanley Cup Final. Staying in the bubble has been crucial to keeping players and staff safe since the season resumed after being put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But while the bubble has been effective, the league does not want to use one for the upcoming 2020-21 regular season.
Within the next two weeks, the NHL and Players' Association will meet to go over their options for next season, and a bubble for an entire season is not anyone's first choice.
Here's what NHLPA executive director Don Fehr told the Associated Press about the future of a bubble:
"Certainly not for a season, of course not. Nobody is going to do that for four months or six months or something like that. Whether we could create some protected environments that people would be tested and they'd be clean when they came in and lasted for some substantially shorter period of time with people cycling in and out is one of the things I suspect we will examine."
The NHLPA is in the process of creating a committee to help them answer the countless questions that currently loom regarding next season. They have to determine when the next season will start (Fehr and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman have said Dec. 1 is the earliest start date), how many games they can schedule and what protocols will be in place.
Letting fans attend game is one of the biggest questions that has to be answered, mostly for financial reasons.
"On whatever basis we may or may not be able to have fans in our buildings is something that may be well beyond our control in terms of local government regulations that will determine how much the shortfall is off of where we were and off of where we were projecting," Bettman said.
He noted that attendance "affects at least 50% of revenues."
If teams take a massive financial hit because fans aren't allowed to go to games next season, player salaries may be impacted. Fehr said that players understand that risk.
"Players are adults. They understand. They may not like it. They may grumble, and they may wish it was different. I'm sure owners do. I'm sure fans do. I'm sure everybody does," he said. "Nobody likes what we're living through. But you don't gain anything by sugar coating or being less blunt than otherwise would be the case."