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Geoff Baker: Will the Kraken's on-ice debut be delayed? Chances are good.

By Geoff Baker, The Seattle Times on

Published in Hockey

So, those are among things the NHL will keep considering for 2021-22. For now, the league has nearly reached the current season's Stanley Cup Final without a single positive COVID-19 test within the Toronto and Edmonton bubble zones.

The Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning entered Monday up 3-1 in their conference finals, with Dallas later eliminating Vegas in overtime. Since the NHL moved to conference playoffs in 1982, teams up 3-1 in the conference final are 35-1 in winning those series.

That means Washingtonians likely will see Spokane native Tyler Johnson and his Lightning battle the Stars for a title.

Once that's complete, attention quickly shifts to the 2020-21 regular season. As mentioned, there's an increased push to delay the Dec. 1 season opening given the quick turnaround from these playoffs.

Also, by waiting another month, the league can better prepare to play games outside "bubbles" and in front of actual fans. The NHL might have to at least start in bubbles - both to appease Canada's government and squeeze early games in more quickly to accomplish a full 82-game schedule.

The delayed Olympic Games in Tokyo are set to go in late July, meaning the NHL must finish the championship next year beforehand to avoid a broadcasting conflict for NBC. Playing more games travel-free in bubbles early would make that possible.

 

Then comes the big question: Does the league have a shortened offseason and revert to "normal" scheduling for 2021-22, or switch to a permanent November or December start? The league, after all, used to start in December when it formed in 1917, then pushed back to November, then to October by 1942 to better accommodate a greater amount of games.

The major advantage to a December start is avoiding head-to-head competition with most of the NFL's schedule. Also, the NHL could avoid starting its season in direct competition with the Major League Baseball playoffs and World Series.

Not to mention, the Stanley Cup Final could potentially have an exclusive championship window - depending on whether the NBA also switches to a similar schedule - during baseball's midsummer doldrums and before the NFL kicks off.

Some favor a November start because it's only one month removed from the current format - making a mid-July championship finish easier under the league's normal eight-plus-months routine and avoiding future Summer Olympics conflicts.

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