Tag Archives: Plagued

‘We have some ground to cover’: Plagued by uncertainty, NHL’s Jan. 1 start date in peril

A far cry from the standings at Thanksgiving serving as a barometer of which teams are most likely to make the playoffs, the NHL heads into the U.S. holiday without a firm plan announced for next season.

The league and players are running out of time to start the season Jan. 1 as previously planned, with various pandemic-related problems standing in the way. There is uncertainty on many fronts.

“The landscape is — there’s a lot of unknowns associated with where we’re going in the immediate future,” Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Monday. “Hopefully things, with all the positive news associated with vaccines and a hopeful climate that could potentially exist that we get back on track. But we have some ground to cover.”

Some of the groundwork is already in place. Realignment featuring an all-Canadian division and regional play in the U.S. appears likely and should push the thorny issue of cross-border travel back to the playoffs. The NHL and NHL Players’ Association also agreed to a long-term extension of the collective bargaining agreement last summer to get hockey through the pandemic.

WATCH | NHL analyst Dave Poulin discusses NHL’s next steps:

The NHL had zero cases in the bubble during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but what’s next for the league? Andi Petrillo speaks with NHL analyst Dave Poulin. 6:03

But with virus cases surging across North America and the prospect of an even bigger revenue shortfall than owners originally feared, questions have arisen about amending that agreement, which has put the start of the season in peril.

Player salaries

Much like Major League Baseball’s struggle to start the 2020 season, it’s all about the money. The CBA — which now runs through 2026 — ensures a 50/50 split of hockey-related revenue; includes players deferring 10 per cent of their salary for the upcoming season; and puts a cap on how much money will be kept in escrow over the length of the deal.

Less than five months since the CBA agreement, the league has asked players to increase salary deferrals to 20 per cent or 26 per cent and increasing the escrow caps, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither side is publicly announcing details of negotiations.

Assuming the season is shorter than a full 82 games, players could balk at taking pro-rated salaries while escrow amounts are increased.

Start date

The two sides have targeted Jan. 1 to start the season. Some steps need to be taken soon for that to happen.

A training camp of roughly two weeks would need to precede opening night. The later the season starts, the fewer games there might be. There could be as few as 50 or as many as 70-plus games for each team, with the stipulation that the Stanley Cup should probably be awarded before the Summer Olympics open in Tokyo on July 23.

“What starts with me is: Let’s get the season started,” Nashville general manager David Poile said. “I’m up for however it looks. Whatever the league and the PA think is the best way to get us back playing, whether it’s with fans, some fans, no fans, TV being [more] relevant, if you will. Whatever it takes to get this season going and get it in place.”

Realignment

A division made up of the seven teams based in Canada — Montreal,, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver — makes the most sense given the border with the U.S. is closed to nonessential travel through Dec. 21 and possibly beyond. Bettman said earlier this month the NHL isn’t moving those seven teams south of the border “so we have to look at alternative ways to play.”

If there was one Canadian division, three U.S. divisions to cut down on long-distance travel might look like this, though discussions are ongoing and nothing has been finalized:

  •  A division with Arizona, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Vegas, Colorado, Dallas and either Minnesota or St. Louis.
  •  A division with St. Louis or Minnesota, Chicago, Nashville, Detroit, Columbus, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida.
  •  A division with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington, New Jersey, Boston and all three New York teams.

Playoffs in the same divisions would determine the final four playing for the Stanley Cup.

“Whatever it looks like, to me, I know it’ll be well thought out,” Poile said. “I just don’t know what it’s going to look like right now.”

Virus concerns

Multiple Columbus Blue Jackets and Vegas Golden Knights recently tested positive for the coronavirus. Team facilities are open for voluntary workouts with protocols in place, though those teams had to close off-ice areas.

After the NHL constructed tight bubbles for the post-season amid the summer surge, players testing positive — and how to deal with that like other leagues have — might be a factor early in 2021.

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Plagued with problems, Georgia primaries raise concerns about November U.S. presidential election

Voters endured heat, pouring rain and waits as long as five hours on Tuesday to cast ballots in Georgia, demonstrating a fierce desire to participate in the democratic process while raising questions about the emerging battleground state’s ability to manage elections in November when the White House is at stake.

A confluence of events disrupted primary elections for president, U.S. Senate and dozens of other contests.

The polls were staffed by fewer workers because of concerns about the coronavirus. A reduced workforce contributed to officials consolidating polling places, which disproportionately affected neighbourhoods with high concentrations of people of colour. Long lines were also reported in whiter suburban areas.

Some voters said they requested mail-in ballots that never arrived, forcing them to go to polling places and adding to the lines. Turnout, meanwhile, may be higher than expected as voters said they were determined to vote following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., and the ensuing demonstrations that swept cities including Atlanta.

Former U.S. vice-president Joe Biden easily won the state’s Democratic presidential primary. He was facing no real opposition but hoped to post a strong showing among Georgia’s diverse electorate to show his strength heading into the general election.

There was also trouble with Georgia’s new voting system that combines touch screens with scanned paper ballots.


Voters wait in a line that stretched around the Metropolitan Library in Atlanta. (Steve Schaefer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via The Associated Press)

The developments were troubling heading into the fall presidential campaign, which will attract even more voters. President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden are expected to fiercely compete in this rapidly changing state. That leaves officials, who have already been criticized for attempting to suppress the vote, with less than five months to turn things around.

The state’s chief elections officer, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, announced plans to investigate voting problems that plagued Fulton and DeKalb counties, where roughly half the population is black.

Investigation ordered

Republican House Speaker David Ralston directed leaders of the House Governmental Affairs Committee to investigate the “unacceptable deficiencies” across the state, particularly in Fulton County.

Benaiah Shaw, who joined the protests against police brutality after Floyd’s death, said he votes in every election but had never waited as long as he did on Tuesday — five hours.

“It’s really disheartening to see a line like this in an area with predominantly black residents,” said Shaw, a 25-year-old African American. He said he was appalled by how few voting machines were available.

Americans were also voting in primaries in West Virginia, Nevada and South Carolina. But the tumult in Georgia garnered much of the attention, reinforcing concerns about managing elections amid the coronavirus.

The Biden campaign called the voting problems in Georgia “completely unacceptable,” and a threat to American values of free and fair elections.

“We only have a few months left until voters around the nation head to the polls again, and efforts should begin immediately to ensure that every Georgian — and every American — is able to safely exercise their right to vote,” said Rachana Desai Martin, the campaign’s national director for voter protection and senior counsel.

Long waits in Wisconsin, Washington

Voters were also forced to wait hours to cast ballots in recent primary contests across Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. While there were no reports of machine malfunctions in other states on Tuesday, the number of voting places was dramatically reduced in virtually every state that has held in-person voting in recent weeks to accommodate a drop in poll workers.

Even before Georgia voters ran into problems, Raffensperger warned that results may be slow to come in because of poll closures and virus restrictions.

Outside a recreation centre being used as a polling site in Atlanta, some voters said they had been waiting for nearly four hours in a line that wrapped around the block. At another site off Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, several people walked up, looked at the line wrapped around the parking lot and then left, shaking their heads in frustration.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said voters in line at one of Atlanta’s largest precincts reported all the machines were down. She encouraged voters not to give up.

“If you are in line, PLEASE do not allow your vote to be suppressed,” the mayor tweeted.

Georgia being closely watched

The problems weren’t just limited to the Atlanta area. In Savannah, Mayor Van Johnson said he was “inundated” with phone calls Tuesday morning from voters reporting “extensive delays.” Election officials in surrounding Chatham County said voting hours at 35 precincts were being extended by two hours.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said he wasn’t surprised that Georgia had voting problems given that the state’s elections chief is a Republican. He noted that Republican Gov. Brian Kemp faced allegations of suppressing votes when he oversaw the 2018 elections as secretary of state.

“Republicans want to ensure that it is as hard as possible for people to vote,” Perez said in an interview.

Kemp was largely silent about the voting problems on Tuesday, aside from retweeting a message from his wife urging people to vote.

Georgia hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992, but the state is being closely watched by Trump and Biden. The former vice president, in particular, hopes to emerge as the prime beneficiary of energy from the African American community and its white allies, who have held massive protests for more than a week.

His path to the presidency was already focused on maximizing black turnout and expanding his alliance with white suburbanites and city dwellers, young voters, Asian Americans and Latinos. Trump, meanwhile, hoped to demonstrate strength among his base of white voters in small towns while holding his own in metro areas.

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