The NHL and NHL Players’ Association are targeting Jan. 1 as the start date for the 2020-21 season, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
Hearing new “target date” of Jan 1 is being planned for by NHL/NHLPA. This does not guarantee season starting New Year’s Day, but replaces Dec 1 as the current target. (Potential training camp would be beforehand.) This could change in the future — but that is where we stand now.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) October 6, 2020
The NHL paused play March 12 because of health concerns surrounding the coronavirus then resumed play without fans July 28 with exhibition games in two Canadian bubble cities, Edmonton and Toronto, before the start of its 24-team Return To Play format. The Blackhawks defeated the Oilers in four games in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers then fell in five games to the Golden Knights in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Lightning defeated the Stars 2-0 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Sept. 28, making a new Jan. 1 start date nearly three months from when the 2019-20 season ended. That’s roughly a similar timeline to what the NHL normally does with the Cup Final ending in mid-June and the new season starting in October.
The NHL wants to play a full 82-game season for the 2020-21 campaign, and if they go away with that plan they’ll need to complete it before Friday, July 23, 2021, when the Tokyo Olympics begin as NBC Sports, the NHL’s broadcast main broadcast partner in the United States, also broadcasts the Olympic Games.