Blake’s Takes: NHL Season to Start January 13th

Last week was an important one in the NHL. We’re inching closer to officially starting the 2020-21 season with a start date and number of games announced. I’ll give my two cents about a new type of advertisement that is rumored to happen this season. Also, I’ll look into some tough news for a few fan-favorites and one of the weirder announcements of the week. Happy Monday!

1. NHL and NHLPA Agree to 56-Game Season

The NHL and NHLPA have finally agreed to important logistics regarding the 2020-21 season. This upcoming season will start on January 13, and each team will play 56 regular-season games. This season was obviously going to be delayed due to COVID-19, which forced the NHL to suspend last season, which couldn’t be completed until late September. The plan still has to be voted on by the league’s board of governors.

This probably isn’t a surprise for most people. It was obvious that alternations would have to be made to this upcoming season. However, we can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing that a plan is in place and the season will start in less than a month.

56 games is a good chunk of the season, too. I’m not sure how many back-to-backs each team will play, but I am interested to see how the players enjoy playing fewer games. It won’t benefit their stats, but I’m sure their bodies will appreciate playing 26 fewer regular-season games.

I’m most excited is the division realignment, including a division full of all Canadian teams. Whoever wins that division will have ultimate bragging rights in the most hockey-crazed country. Maybe the fans of that team can celebrate seeing as no Canadian team has won a Stanley Cup since 1993.

2. Helmet Ads Could Be Coming This Season

Helmet ads could be on their way to the NHL. According to Sports Business Journal, the ads could be approved by the league’s board of governors soon. The ads would be located on a player’s helmet, one on each side. Only one brand would be allowed on a helmet at a time. The article linked also states that teams may have the option to select one brand for home games and one brand for away games, but a team cannot swap brands throughout the season.

There’s no doubt this decision is due to the financial implications of the coronavirus. Without fans in the stands, teams are losing a ton of money. Increased advertising revenue will help recoup some of that money. Thankfully, it seems as though the ads will be small and won’t impact the character of each team’s uniforms.

I’m not as upset about this as I thought I would be. After watching soccer more and more over recent years, I’ve become desensitized to ads on jerseys. Almost every soccer team in Europe and the U.S. has an advertisement on the chest, where most team’s logo or team name would be. The NBA also introduced small jersey ads a few years ago.

I don’t love this, but it’s the nature of the business. Teams are always looking for ways to make more money, and this is an untapped market. I do hope that the brand each team partners with makes sense. For example, the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers’ jersey sponsor is Goodyear. Their logo is cool and their colors match those of the Cavs. The ads would look cooler if they can at least match the color of each team’s jerseys.

3. Lundqvist Sidelined for Season

This was the worst news of the week. Capitals’ goalie (that’s very strange to write) Henrik Lundqvist announced that a heart condition will prevent him from playing this season. It was unclear from the statement if Lundqvist will ever play hockey again. King Henrik was bought-out by the Rangers earlier this offseason and joined Washington on a one-year deal worth $1.5 million.

Heartbreaking news. A player with the resume of Lundqvist deserves to go out on his own terms. I know he was excited to compete this season and attempt to rebound from his disappointing 2019-20 season. I know I was rooting for him with Washington. I’m hoping he can recover so he can grace us with at least one more season on the ice. Best wishes to him and his family.

4. Alex Steen Retires

More bad news. Alex Steen has decided to retire after a stellar 15-year career. The 36-year-old chose to retire because of a back injury he suffered last season. According to the Blues, Steen has “multiple levels of degenerative herniated discs of his lumbar spine.”

Steen was drafted 24th overall by the Maple Leafs in the 2002 draft. After three-plus seasons with Toronto, he was traded to the Blues where his career took off. He spent parts of 12 seasons in St. Louis, winning the Stanley Cup with the team in the 2018-19 season. Steen was a great contributor for St. Louis, scoring at least 20 goals four times and 50 points five times. Steen also received a silver stick last season after playing in 1,000 career games.

This is a tough loss for the Blues. Steen was a huge part of that locker room. I heard repeatedly that he was one of the most important voices among the team and always put the team first. While his play had declined in recent years, he will be greatly missed. Like Lundqvist, it’s gutting that he won’t get to leave on his own terms. I hope Steen joins the front office in some capacity and sticks around the franchise. He’s a great ambassador for St. Louis and he deserves to be honored as such. Congrats on a great career for Steen.

5. Jagr To Suit Up for Another Season

This news got buried with all the excitement of the NHL’s start date, but Jaromir Jagr will play another season of pro hockey. He will return to HC Kladno for another year, a team that he co-owns. Jagr played for Kladno last year, too. When he joined Kladno last season, it marked his fifth separate stint with his hometown team. Last season, Jagr scored 29 points in 38 games. Not bad for a 48-year-old.

I got to say, this is the life. I’m sure playing hockey in the Czech Republic is a bit more low key than playing in the NHL. Jagr gets to play for his hometown team and no one can tell him what to do because he owns it. I doubt he feels any pressure, not like he ever did when he was at his peak anyway. This man just loves hockey.

If anything, I’m jealous of Jagr. If I was him, I would play myself on every powerplay and smash hot dogs during the game. He’s living the dream. ■

Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995

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