The NHL is looking to begin its next season on Jan. 1, 2021, the league and NHL Players’ Association announced on Oct. 6.
The league has previously said it could begin as soon as Dec. 1, but after talks with the NHLPA following the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final, it’s looking at a later start. In a normal year, the NHL season begins in early October.
“It was just over a week ago that we celebrated the successful completion of our 2019-20 return to play with the crowning of the Tampa Bay Lightning as Stanley Cup champions,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said.
“Based upon what we have learned and what we know and what we still don’t know, I can say that we are now focused on a Jan. 1 start for next season,” he added.
NHL teams are expected to have training camps that are at least two weeks long, with estimated start dates coming at a later date.
Bettman has said that the league is going to try to play a full 82-game schedule, but it’s not clear where it will happen. Last week, NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr said that holding the full season in a bubble-like environment is not on the table.
“Certainly not for a season, of course not,” Fehr said. “Nobody is going to do that for four months or six months or something like that.”
“Whether we could create some protected environments that people would be tested and they’d be clean when they came in and lasted for some substantially shorter period of time with people cycling in and out is one of the things I suspect we will examine,” Fehr added.
The NHL began the postponed playoffs for its 2019-20 season on Aug. 1, using a bubble model. Unlike with NBA and WNBA, the NHL’s model had two “hub cities” — Edmonton and Toronto — where 12 teams from each conference were initially residing and playing for the duration of their postseason run.
During the 65 days when teams were at the hub city sites, 33,174 tests were administered to team personnel, and zero came back positive.
The first round of the 2020 NHL Draft, originally scheduled for June 26, was held virtually the evening of Oct. 6.