NHL, NHLPA tentatively agree to terms on return to play: reports

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The National Hockey League and its players' association reportedly agreed to terms Friday on holding the 2021 campaign.

Each side must hold a vote among its constituents to put the final stamp of approval on the deal, Sportsnet and TSN reported.

The sides agreed to a 56-game schedule with hopes of starting Jan. 13, according to multiple outlets.

CBC Sports has not independently confirmed the reports.

Deputy NHL commissioner Bill Daly confirmed to The Associated Press the sides have an agreement, pending the approval of various executive boards.

Players on the NHLPA's executive board call on Friday night supported moving forward with the agreed upon terms, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because players had yet to officially approve the agreement.

The league's Board of Governors could vote on the plan as soon as this weekend. Approval from health officials in the five Canadian provinces that have teams is still needed before the NHL can go ahead with the season.

Training camps for the seven non-playoff teams would open Dec. 31, followed by Jan. 3 for the other 24 teams. It's unclear whether teams would play in their home arenas or in "hub" cities, although an all-divisional schedule is expected.

The NHL was reportedly planning to realign its divisions for the 2020-21 campaign with a seven-team, all-Canadian division that would play domestically in Canada with no cross-border travel. However, reports Thursday night suggested that every Canadian team may have to head south instead to adhere to provincial guidelines around COVID-19.

Exhibition games aren't expected to be included in the leadup to the new season.

The NHL, like the NBA, finished its previous season in two quarantined bubbles — in Toronto and Edmonton. Commissioner Gary Bettman awarded the Stanley Cup to the Tampa Bay Lightning in late September.

Owners and players agreed to a long-term extension of the collective bargaining agreement before the 2019-20 season resumed, bracing for financial ramifications of the pandemic. They agreed recently to stick to that deal, which includes players deferring 10 per cent of salaries, a cap on money paid into escrow and a flat $81.5 million US cap.

The NHL follows the NBA in moving toward another regular season. The basketball season opens Tuesday.