Commissioner: NHL to Lose Billions by Playing Season

Commissioner: NHL to Lose Billions by Playing Season a wrecking ball labeled COVID-19 smashes a ice wall labeled n h l (MikeSuszycki/Dreamstime)

By Brian Trusdell | Monday, 11 January 2021 08:55 PM

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman said Monday the NHL and its teams will lose billions by playing a truncated 56-game season this year, and it would be cheaper to not play at all.

"Let me make something really clear: We're coming back to play this season because we think it's important for the game, because our fans and our players want us to, and it may give people – particularly in isolation, or where there are curfews – a sense of normalcy and something to do," Bettman said on a video conference call with reporters.

"It would be cheaper for us to shut the doors and not play. We're going to lose more money, at the club level, and the league level, by playing than by not playing."

The league reportedly suffered a 14% loss in revenue due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus last season, according to Forbes. That equated to about $616 million less than the 2018-2019 season. It suspended play March 11, after about 85% of the regular season had been completed, eventually resumed Aug. 1 in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, without spectators, and completed play Sept. 28.

A new abbreviated season is scheduled to begin Wednesday and end May 8, with each team playing games in its home arenas – without spectators or limited capacity. It will be shortened by a third from its regular 82-game schedule it has played since the 1996-96 season. It will be followed by a 16-team playoffs.

But that will result in significant losses.

"The magnitude of the loss starts with a 'B," Bettman said. "We're out of the 'M' range and into the 'B.'

"While there is an economic consequence to playing the season, all of our owners and our clubs are in position to weather it and we have no concerns in that regard – except that everyone is going to lose a lot of money to do this."