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A Few Fans In Arenas for 2021 NHL Season Won’t Fix Money Problems

Will there be fans in the buildings to start the 2021 NHL season? If so, will there be enough to solve the money situation?

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When asked if he believed fans would be allowed back into arenas for the start of the 2021 NHL season, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston said he thought so, “In a couple of places.” He made sure not to say in all cases or all cites, because the NHL and other sports leagues are a long ways away from being able to definitively welcome fans back. Still, there are positive signs.

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During a media hit on Sportsnet 590 radio, Johnston noted that if the NHL gets its season going on January 10th (the league is still shooting for January 1), he expects there will be some fans in some arenas, just not all. He notes:

“I think there might be in a couple places just because we’ve seen you know a few States right now where fans are allowed in, in various capacities in the NFL in some of those States like Texas.

Remember, when Dallas was playing in the Cup Final against Tampa, they were selling tickets to their own watch parties at the arena.

Johnston notes that if the season is underway by January 10th there will be a very limited numbers of fans in a very limited number of buildings. That said, the hope is that by the spring and a little more knowledge about the vaccine, that things will open up and more fans will be allowed in. At the very least, he’s hoping there’s a more clear pathway to anything that resembles a normal season.

Unfortunately, while that sounds like good news on the surface and having fans back is a huge plus for the NHL, the players and the fans themselves who miss the game, a handful of fans in a handful of cities doesn’t do much to solve a pretty big financial problem.

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It Won’t Help the NHL’s Money Situation

Unfortunately, while Johnston says he expects to see some fans, he doesn’t believe the numbers will be enough to dent the bottom line financially for teams and the NHL. The league is massively driven by gate revenue and without that revenue and the NHL-related revenue that comes with merchandise sales, food and beverage, parking and more, the NHL is primed to take a massive hit.

Even worse, the NHL can’t move forward like they did in the playoffs where logistics and health and safety were their only concerns.

Now, moving forward means solving one giant math equation. The NHL needs to know who is going to bare the brunt of the financial losses and if these losses will be shared by owners and players. There will be conversations about deferrals, prorating salaries and more and none of that will be easy.

Johnston says, “It’s about finding the sweet spot with the money.” Only a few fans makes it a lot harder to hit that spot.

Next: All-Canadian Division and a Sensical NHL Season Format for 2020/21

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