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Vegas Golden Knights Bicycle Donation

Steve Marcus

Vegas Golden Knights Head Coach Peter DeBoer poses on a bike at City National Arena in Summerlin Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. The Vegas Golden Knights Foundation donated 50 bicycles and $25,000 to HELP of Southern Nevada.

The Golden Knights don’t know when their season will start because of the pandemic, what it will look like, who they’ll be playing or where those games will be.

Other than that, they’re ready to go.

Many of the Golden Knights are in town, skating in small groups at City National Arena. They’re prepared to play hockey whenever the time comes, but as of right now they’re just like the rest of us: waiting for word on when that will be.

“Still weird a bit. Still pretty long since we stopped, but I think everybody is looking forward to getting going,” goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said at City National, where the organization donated bikes and money to HELP of Southern Nevada. “It seems like we’re on track to start pretty soon.”

It’s looking like that will be Jan. 13. That’s what Golden Knights owner Bill Foley predicted, and the date tentatively scheduled by the league and players for a season. Training camps would begin in early January — Foley floated Jan. 3 as a possibility — with a 56-game season.

That’s all conjecture right now, though. And players who have been around awhile know that the NHL doesn’t have the best history of getting deals done with the players association.

“At this stage of my career you don’t get too optimistic until things really get set in stone,” 13-year veteran forward Max Pacioretty said. “Obviously it looks like we’re going to play, but it’s just a matter of when.”

Not knowing when games will start presents its own challenges beyond just the uncertainty. In a normal year, players know from the time their team is done with the previous season, they have until September to get ready for training camp and to be ready to hit the ground running in early October.

This year that’s not the case, which requires extra work with the training staff. You don’t want to get burned out by training too hard too early, but you also don’t want to still be ramping up your conditioning when the puck drops for the first game.

“You want to peak at the right time and you don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself or also get too far behind,” Pacioretty said. “I just hope we start sooner rather than later, but hopefully we find that out sometime soon here.”

Still, there’s optimism among many that a season will begin, perhaps in less than a month. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means that season will look different, however. An 82-game season is virtually impossible if the league wants the 2021-22 season to look as normal as possible (and considering the expansion Seattle Kraken are set to debut, that’s exactly what the league wants), and 56 looks like the number of games.

Even the landscape of the league will have to change. Strict border policies between the U.S. and Canada make life tough for the seven Canadian teams, which are expected to form their own division for this season. That leaves the 24 American teams also in need of realignment, considering three of the league’s four divisions have at least one Canadian team.

That includes the Golden Knights’ Pacific Division, where Vegas will be separated from Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. In their place are expected to be some American-based Central Division teams, perhaps even the top three from last year: St. Louis, Colorado and Dallas. Traditional Pacific foes Arizona, Los Angeles, San Jose and Anaheim are expected to remain in Vegas’ division.

“Group of death it sounds like,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “For me, there’s befits to being in a really tough division as you’re playing really tough opponents and you’re going to have to play really, really good hockey right from the start of the season. Hopefully that toughens your skin, so to speak, before the playoffs.”

Those division games might not even be at teams’ home arenas. That’s the hope the NHL has right now, but as COVID-19 cases spike around the country even as vaccines are starting to be distributed, some locales can’t host professional sports. For instance, Santa Clara County, which is home to the San Jose Sharks, has a ban on sports right now.

That could lead to mini bubbles, or regional hubs where teams fly to one venue and play multiple games against multiple opponents. Foley said if that’s the case, T-Mobile Arena would be an option, even if fans are not permitted in the building.

“I’d say we’re a pretty good candidate to be a participant in that kind of hockey environment,” Foley said last week.

The Golden Knights will be among the favorites to go all the way next season, regardless of how it looks. Bookmaker William Hill tabs the Golden Knights with plus-550 odds (bet $100 to win $550) to win the Stanley Cup, best in the NHL. Credit that to a full season of DeBoer and goalie Robin Lehner, free agent signing Alex Pietrangelo and a 2019-20 season that ended in the Western Conference Final.

The Golden Knights might not know much about what next season will look like. But whenever, wherever, however and in whatever form it takes, the Golden Knights will be prepared.

“We’ve had ample time to rest, get prepared and just get ready to go whenever that time comes,” defenseman Zach Whitecloud said.

Article written by #LasVegasSun