The start of the 2020-21 NHL season might not take place until next January.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman revealed plans for the upcoming season on Saturday, including the potential number of regular season games and how fans might be included.
“The NHL is planning for a full 82-game schedule next season and the usual four-round, best-of-seven format in the Stanley Cup Playoffs,” says NHL Senior Writer Dan Rosen.
And while Bettman says that’s the plan, he also notes that there’s simply too much uncertainty about how or when that takes place.
“There is still so much we don’t know,” he told reporters during a press conference. “Nobody can tell me whether or not the border between Canada and the United States is going to be open by a date certain.”
“Nobody can tell me whether or not our arenas will be able to have either socially distanced or fully occupied buildings.”
Bettman added that anything would be “sheer speculation,” but says that the goal is to establish as much “normalcy as possible.”
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And while the league had December 1, 2020, circled as a targeted start date for next season, that could also be pushed back until late December or even January. The delayed start date would also impact events such as the 2021 NHL Winter Classic, which will see the Minnesota Wild host the St. Louis Blues at Target Field.
Bettman also addressed how fans could be included next season, suggesting that they could be incorporated through modified attendance as the season progresses. He even noted the possibility of going to full attendance “if all restrictions are lifted.”
“How we start doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how we have to finish,” Bettman says.
Earlier this month, the NHL announced that it would host the 2020 NHL Draft from October 6 to 7, with free agency starting on October 9.