NHL Targeting January 1st for Next Season Start Date, Gary Bettman Says

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistOctober 6, 2020

National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to members of the media , Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

One consequence of continuing the 2019-20 NHL and NBA seasons following a lengthy hiatus for the COVID-19 pandemic was that it would surely lead to the 2020-21 campaigns being pushed back due to the late finishes.

On Tuesday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said his league is targeting Jan. 1 as a potential start date for the upcoming season, per Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press. 

The NHL season typically starts in early October following a September preseason, but that was not feasible since the Tampa Bay Lightning just wrapped up their Stanley Cup Final win over the Dallas Stars on Sept. 28.

Whyno provided more details, noting teams around the league believe they will have training camps of at least two weeks before the season begins.

Bettman also said it is his hope teams will play a full 82 games in 2020-21, although that has not been finalized.

The NHL suspended its season on March 12 amid concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic and formulated a return-to-play plan that included bubble-like environments in Toronto and Edmonton.

The restart plan included 24 teams and began on Aug. 1 with Stanley Cup Qualifiers and round-robin games. The top four teams in each conference played the round-robin games for seeding purposes, while the other 16 teams played the best-of-five Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

From there, the league completed its 16-team playoffs with traditional best-of-seven series until the Lightning emerged as champions.

It appears as if they will not start their title defense until 2021 given the new targeted date.