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NBA Announces Plans for 2021, NHL Still in Discussions

Sports & Entertainment
December 4, 2020

There have been several updates since we last provided an overview of professional sporting leagues in Canada and the U.S. In the latest news, which we will discuss below, the NBA has firmed up its plans, though there special regulations in place for athletes on Canada’s only team, the Toronto Raptors. The NHL is a little further behind in their modified return to play. And in the meantime, the NFL is coming close to wrapping up a season that has proven to be a logistical challenge.

The Return of the NBA

The NBA has announced it is planning to return to regular season play on December 22. The season, which starts over two months later than normal, will be compressed, with teams playing just 72 games as opposed to the normal 82.

Unlike the league’s return to play in the summer, which saw the entire league quarantined together in Orlando, Florida, most teams will be able to play in their home arenas this time around. There is one critical exception to that. Due to international travel issues, the Toronto Raptors will not be playing at home for the entire season. Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays ran into a similar problem and played their season in Buffalo, New York as a result. The Raptors will play the upcoming season in Tampa Bay. Following the baseball theme, the league has stated that teams will be playing in “mini bubbles” which will see them playing a series of two consecutive games against a single opponent.

Fan attendance will not be universal across all teams. Instead, teams will work within state and local law in determining how many, if any, fans can attend games live. There is no indication that teams other than Toronto will be locating elsewhere, but with COVID-19 cases rising across the U.S., that may change soon.

NHL Looks Towards Bubbles

The NHL is taking a little longer to get back into action. As it stands now, January is likely the earliest possible month that play will resume. According to a CBC article, some type of modified bubble system may be used. The Players’ Association plans to meet with the league in the coming weeks to talk about how they can begin an 82-game season.

Of course, one of the biggest logistical hurdles for the NHL is that it has a number of teams in Canada. With international travel restricted, the article states that there has been some discussion on having a Canadian bubble, which would allow teams north of the border to play one another. While this might be a challenge for the league to implement, it would likely be well-received by fans in Canada.

NFL Nears the End of Season

In the meantime, the NFL is still working towards concluding its season. It has not been able to escape COVID-19-related illnesses (both the NBA and NHL had more success in this area). Just this week, a game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers was postponed for six days due to COVID-19 outbreaks. Last Sunday, the Denver Broncos were not able to play any of their quarterbacks because of possible exposure to the virus. And the San Francisco 49ers have been told they can’t play or practice in their home stadium.

So far the league has been able to squeak by, but with case numbers in the United States on the rise, we will be watching closely to see if that changes.

Mark Feigenbaum of Feigenbaum Law holds a US Masters of Laws degree in Entertainment, Media and Sports Law, and a Doctorate in Law focusing on the taxation of sports and entertainment professionals. His rare distinction in these areas is coupled with his industry experience, making Feigenbaum Law uniquely positioned to understand and advise on the complexities of tax and representation issues for professional and elite athletes on both sides of the border. We provide our clients in sports and entertainment with personalized attention and detailed oversight of a number of issues. Contact us to learn how our skilled team can assist you. We can be reached online or by phone at (877) 275-4792.