It’s been two and a half weeks since the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars in Game 6 to capture the 2020 Stanley Cup.
That brought the conclusion to a season like no other.
Following a season pause that lasted nearly five months, the league managed to resume play in the hub cities of Edmonton, Alberta and Toronto, Ontario in August. The NHL traditionally opens the new season in early October, but this year, early October marked the 2020 Draft and the start of free agency.
The league initially eyed a Dec. 1 start for the 2020-21 season, with training camp opening on Nov. 17. In short time, it became evident that a December start up wasn’t going to happen.
During the 2020 Draft, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the league was hoping to start the 2020-21 season on Jan. 1. But some expect the start date to be even later.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported in his latest 31 Thoughts column that some sources view Jan. 15 as a possible starting date for the 2020-21 season.
For what it’s worth, that Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley thinks Feb. 1 is more likely. Not only that, but Foley seemed to hint that there will be an all-Canadian division for next season.
The Canada-U.S. border is currently closed to non-essential traveling. The players’ difficulties of living inside the bubble were well-documented, too, so divisional realignment for 2020-21 seems like the best and most realistic option.
At this time, it’s unlikely that the league will manage to run an 82-game schedule. Next year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin on July 23, and NBC will broadcast the games in the United States. It’s been suggested that the NHL will look to finish next season before the Olympics, which would accommodate NBC, their broadcast partner.
There’s plenty of work to do now as the NHL and NHLPA look for the best possible way to run the 2020-21 season.
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