Could the 2020-21 NHL season start with a Winter Classic in January?
With the NHL’s return to play plans revealed earlier this week, the league has its next steps in resuming its season after it was put on pause in mid-March. There is still a lot of work to be done in order to get hockey back up and running later this summer, but commissioner Gary Bettman’s press conference was a good first step.
The league did not give a firm timeline for when training camps will begin and when the 24-team playoff will commence, but it is looking more and more likely that the 2020-21 season will be delayed by months in order for the league to award this season’s Stanley Cup.
That begs the question then, when will the league start up the 2020-21 season and will they play a full 82-game slate?
According to Bettman, the NHL will play all 82 games in the 2020-21 calendar, with a range of dates for starting the season anywhere between November of this year and January of next year.
That’s a wide range of dates, most likely due to the league’s flexibility on restarting the season this year. The NHL clearly does not want to start the 2020-21 season without fans in the stands, meaning the league very well could delay the upcoming season as far as possible in order to get to that point.
Starting the 2020-21 NHL season as late as January will likely have far-reaching repercussions into the 2021-22 season. Pushing the start of the 2020-21 season to January would likely cut out the All-Star Game, compact the schedule even further and likely cause the season to end in late June 2021, if not later. With Seattle set to enter play during the 2021-22 season, the league would most likely want to have as normal of a season as possible, but with the way things have gone lately, it’s hard to predict just what will happen.
There’s been talk that the NHL will go outside for their first game of the 2020-21 season, starting it off with the Winter Classic in Minnesota on the first day of the new year. It’s an intriguing idea, but one that will probably come as a last resort for the league should all other avenues fail.
The coronavirus won’t just impact the remainder of the 2019-20 season, it likely will cause ripples in the hockey world for years to come.
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