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Patrick Johnston: Reality says Feb. 1 more likely than Jan. 1 for the NHL

The Vancouver Canucks are drawing up plans for next season as the NHL stickhandles around COVID-19.
The Vancouver Canucks are drawing up plans for next season as the NHL stickhandles around COVID-19.

The argument for Feb. 1 being a more likely start date than Jan. 1 comes down to pretty basic math.

We assume the NHL is going to give its teams two weeks to run training camp. If the NHL were to actually launch Jan. 1, as they still claim they hope to do, that means starting training camp sometime around Dec. 15.

That means having players who will have to quarantine — i.e. any player travelling from Europe or the United States to Canada — arriving in their team’s city Dec. 1.

That, you will note by looking at the calendar, is Tuesday.

The NHL and NHLPA remain at odds over how to handle wages owed for a now-shortened 2020-21 season. It’s certainly possible that the league and the players’ association end their standoff in the next 48 hours, but it’s hard to fathom.

Meanwhile, reality moves forward. Santa Clara County, inside which stands the San Jose Sharks’ home arena, the SAP Center, announced Saturday that starting Monday, pro sports teams basically won’t be able to play or even practise at their facilities.

The Sharks may end up leaving the region, possibly even California, for their training camp, but time is running short to find a locale that would allow for proper planning.

There’s also a 14-day quarantine requirement for the region, applied to anyone who travels to the county from more than 150 miles away.

Some have mooted the NHL could be eyeing Jan. 15 as a new starting point, but that would then mean having players quarantine over Christmas, and who really is going to agree to that?

So back things up another two weeks. There’s where you get Feb. 1 from. The NHL has never started a season so late, but here we are.

It’s just simple logic. And then there’s the truth that the longer NHL owners wait to start, the more likely it is they’ll be able to have fans in the stands, spending money.

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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