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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

All North American sports leagues face enormous uncertainty heading into 2021, but the NHL's reliance on ticket sales and cross-border travel puts it in a particularly tough spot.

The state of play: While leagues like the NBA and NFL make most of their revenue from media rights, the NHL is a much more gate-driven league.

  • This means playing in empty arenas could cripple the bottom line — so much so that a few owners have suggested that the league might be better off financially if it shuts down next season, according to ESPN.
  • Commissioner Gary Bettman reportedly shut that idea down, but it gives a sense of the stress the NHL is under.

Where things stand:

  • Start date: The NHL and NHLPA announced on Oct. 6 that they've shifted their target date to Jan. 1, 2021, after initially targeting Dec. 1. Bettman made it clear to me in our interview last month that they won't rush this decision.
  • Canadian border: The Canadian border was closed for nonessential travel this summer, and the situation hasn't changed all that much. One potential solution: an All-Canada Division featuring the NHL's seven Canada-based teams.
  • Season length: We almost certainly won't see a full slate. That could mean upward of 65 games or as few as 48, which is considered the absolute minimum, per ESPN.
  • Paychecks: Thanks to an agreement the NHL and NHLPA made this summer, most players have already received 8.1% of their 2020-21 salaries.

Series schedule:

  • Yesterday: NBA 2021
  • Tomorrow: MLB 2021
  • Friday: Mystery league (???)

Go deeper

Dec 21, 2020 - Podcasts

Milwaukee Bucks owner: NBA teams will lose money this season

The NBA tips off tomorrow night, making it the first major U.S. sports league to play a second season amidst the pandemic. No bubble this time, but also not many in-person fans.

Axios Re:Cap talks with Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry on the business of basketball, how much he expects to lose this season and that massive new deal for two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Dec 22, 2020 - World

Canada's most populous province orders holiday coronavirus lockdown

The Christmas windows at the Hudsons Bay Company encourage people to social distance and wear masks in Toronto. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Ontario officials announced Monday a weeks-long shutdown across Canada's most populous province from Boxing Day as the country is hit by spiking COVID-19 cases.

Driving the news: Nonessential businesses including gyms, salons and indoor dining have been shut in the hardest-hit areas of Toronto and the Regional Municipality of Peel for nearly a month. But Ontario Premier Doug Ford told a briefing "COVID is spreading rapidly from high outbreak areas to areas with fewer cases."

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Katie Ledecky in Tokyo. Photo: Ding Xu/Xinhua via Getty Images

🚨: Simone Biles won't compete in individual vault or uneven bars

🏊‍♀️: Katie Ledecky wins gold in women's 800m freestyle

🏊: Caeleb Dressel breaks world record in men's 100m butterfly, 3rd gold

🇬🇧: Britain wins gold in first-ever Olympic mixed 4x100m medley relay

🎾: Novak Djokovic defeated in Olympic semi-finals

💻: Japan tests teleporting games and "remote cheering"

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

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