The NHL and its players association have targeted Jan. 1, 2021 as the start date for the 2020-21 regular season, they announced in a joint statement on Tuesday.
The news — originally reported by Sportsnet hockey reporter and NHL Network insider Elliotte Friedman — does not guarantee the league will start on Jan. 1, but does replace the league’s previous preferred date of Dec. 1.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman hinted at a potential new target date for the 2020-21 season at his state of the league news conference prior to the end of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final between Tampa Bay and Dallas. During that address, he also suggested a desire to play a full 82-game regular-season schedule.
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The NHL concluded its season on Sept. 28 as the Lightning secured its second Stanley Cup championship with a 4-2 series win over the Stars: over three months removed from its typical late May/early June end date. The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, forced the league to postpone its 2019-20 season on March 12; the NHL resumed play on Aug. 1, which included “bubbles” inside Toronto and Edmonton.
The league typically has a roughly four-month break between the end of the previous season’s Stanley Cup Final and Opening Day of the ensuing season; that break will be shortened by one month if the NHL ends up going forward with its Jan. 1 target date.