St. Louis Blues And NHL Must Have A 2020-21 Season

St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
St. Louis Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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Some fans want the St. Louis Blues to simply push the reset button for 2021-22. It just is not that easy.

One of the interesting things about being a fan of anything, but sports in particular, is the wide variety of opinions regarding one thing. For example, you would think most St. Louis Blues fans want there to be a return to hockey as soon as possible, but that is not true across the board.

While most Blues fans want there to be games no matter what, there are actually some out there on the opposite side. While surfing the web, one of the Post-Dispatch’s recent Q&A’s, one fan actually asked why the NHL doesn’t just give up on a half-season plan and focus on 2021-22.

First off, if you’re a sports fan, or just a hockey fan, why would you want a delay? Why would you not want to see the guys out there, even if it was a shortened season?

I understand the idea of not liking change to the season structure. While there were pros and cons, not everyone liked the altered playoff picture. So, it would go to reason that not all fans will consider a shorter season a “real” season.

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That is what it is. There is little chance of changing their minds.

My counterpoint would always be it does not matter in the long run. Very few NHL fans consider the New Jersey Devils 1995 Stanley Cup win tainted because it was a half season.

There was chatter on social media about the Tampa Bay Lightning not being considered real champions either. I say the issues everyone dealt with for the pandemic made their win even more real.

Prior to 2019, I would always ask fans if they would have been any less excited about a Blues Stanley Cup win if it came in a shortened season. I know it would not have mattered to me. The journey might have been shorter, but nobody would have complained about the ultimate destination.

However, even if you strip all that away, there is a good reason the Blues and the NHL cannot push all their plans back a full season. It basically comes down to money.

The NHL, no matter how much we love it and think it is the best league with the best sport, is not the NBA. It doesn’t even sniff the NFL in terms of money.

Those leagues have rich enough contracts and have enough built in fan base they could survive not having a full season. Sure, there would be financial concessions, just like any business would have if they missed their entire revenue window. They would survive.

The NHL likely would not. Hockey owners are not hurting for personal money, but they are not multi-billionaires on the level of a Jerry Jones or Steve Ballmer either.

The NHL also needs fans more than the other sports. While they will never openly admit it, it has been stated by several sources that the NFL, as a league, would still make money if every game was played without fans.

The NHL has a reasonable deal with NBC for national coverage, but it is not on the level where you can have empty buildings all across the league and make it work. While that seems like an argument to delay until 2021-22 for a vaccine, etc. it is not.

The NHL has to get the money off its current contract to stay afloat. While some individual teams are better suited than others, the league as a whole does not have enough funds saved up to withstand missing an entire season. They already spent hundreds of millions on the 2020 playoffs, so they cannot give up an entire season’s worth of revenue. The NHL is in a spot where half a season of a TV contract and MAYBE a quarter season of a partially full building is better than nothing.

Additionally, you have to consider the people that might still be waiting on jobs. If you lay off or furlough all those people for an entire year, they likely will not be available to hire by the time you want to start a new season down the road. You might be in that situation anyway, but it would surely require almost a complete overhaul of your gameday staff if you postpone that long.

Last, but certainly not least, you would create a gigantic mess regarding player contracts. If you miss an entire season normally, a player would just lose the year on their contract, but would the players’ association allow that under these circumstances?

If you carry over an unused final year in 2020-21 to 2021-22, that opens up a huge problem regarding the Seattle situation. Suddenly, a player you thought might be off the books by the time the expansion draft rolled around is a player you have to expose or protect in that potential situation.

Players won’t go for that either. If their contract did not carry over and they lose out on their “contract year” they lose value by having a year with no production to make a case off.

Ultimately, while I get a fan’s idea of just pushing it off until a vaccine is available and you could theoretically have full buildings, you cannot base anything off that. When this all started, we all thought we would be back to normal by now, so you cannot automatically assume it will all be sorted out by October, 2021.

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The Blues and the NHL must have a 2020-21 season. Yes, it will only be a 2021 season and games will likely be played fast and furious, but the teams and the league have to do it that way unless forced not to.