In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the NHL elected to hold its 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs in a bubble, with Edmonton and Toronto hosting games as the two hub cities. The league has been back for a little over a month and there has yet to be a positive COVID-19 test among players. Due to the success that the bubbles and hub cities, the NHL isn't ruling out having a similar setup for the 2020-21 regular season.
In a recent question-and-answer session with NHL.com, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly revealed that the league has had talks about next season also featuring bubbles and hub cities. However, he noted that the current form -- just two hub cities and two bubbles -- would probably not work. Instead, it may have to be expanded.
Here's what Daly told NHL.com:
"I don't want to rule out anything because I think there are so many alternatives and possibilities and ways this might play out. I can't tell you we've thought necessarily about a divisional bubble. I don't think our current format for bubbles would work for the regular season, particularly because our objective is to play a full season and I'm not sure how we do that in the format we're currently utilizing. It's already a significant amount of time just to complete our playoffs in that type of bubble format. I don't think it's going to look like what we're currently doing, but could it be a variation of what we're currently doing. I wouldn't rule that out any more than I would rule out any number of other alternatives."
Right now, the NHL has a tentative start date of Dec. 1 for the 2020-21 season. As Daly noted, it's not something that's set in stone and that date could be pushed back if there's a possibility of fans being able to attend games -- even in a limited capacity -- in the future.
The Stanley Cup Finals are tentatively scheduled to begin in late September, which would bring the season's conclusion to early October. The NHL Draft and free agency would soon follow, and teams would get an estimated two-month break before the 2020-21 campaign would begin.
The idea of another bubble -- or bubbles -- is clearly not set in stone yet. However, based on the success that the process has had through these playoffs, it's clear why the NHL has not taken the idea off of the table yet.