No one knows if there's going to be any hockey played next season in the NHL, but if there, it's quite likely to be less hockey.
Sources have told TSN the NHL, in conjunction with the NHL Players' Association, are working toward a reduced 72-game schedule, down 10 games from 82.
Obviously, nothing is finalized, not with the monumentally difficult negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement still to be done. But the league and the NHLPA appear to be on the same page on this issue, that it's in everyone's best interests to play fewer games.
Clearly, there are revenue issues to be dealt with and that will play a role in the CBA talks, but the wear and tear on players would be reduced with a shorter schedule and the owners recognize fewer games, especially when the surplus was being played in early October and up against competition from football and the World Series, could be a positive thing if marketed properly.
That's where the content of a new schedule would come into play.
Sources tell TSN the league has a working model for a 72-games season that would eliminate all interlocking play between the Eastern and Western Conference teams.
Under this proposal, which has tremendous support amongst most NHL owners, each team would; play its four division rivals eight times for a total of 32 divisional games; play its 10 remaining conference rivals four times each for a total of 40 conference games and a grand total of 72 games.
East would not play West. There will be some teams, especially in the West, that won't like the idea of some Original Six franchises not coming west, but the majority of Eastern teams would rather have a divisional rival come into town than any team or player from the Western Conference.
One of the biggest casualties, if this new schedule becomes reality, is that the Toronto Maple Leafs, a huge draw in Western Canada, would not visit Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
There's still much work to be done on all CBA-related issue, but a 72-game schedule certainly appears to be on the horizon, whenever the sun may come up on the next NHL season.