NHL Aiming for New Year’s Day Start

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The National Hockey League is aiming for a Jan. 1 start date for its new season, intending to play a full 82-game season in home arenas with spectators.

“We really haven’t focused precisely on what we’re going to be doing next season,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told NHL Network before the start of Tuesday’s two-day NHL draft. “I think it’s fairly clear that while Dec. 1 has always been a notional date, we’re focused on the fact that we’re really looking now at Jan. 1 to start the season up.

“Our hope is to have a full season, full regular season, and to have fans in the building, but there are a lot of things that have to transpire, many of which if not most of which are beyond our control before we can finalize our plans.”

The NHL Players Association also announced the New Year’s Day target, which is earlier than the Jan. 20 date on which the 1994-1995 season began. That season began late and was shortened to 48 games due to the team owner’s lockout of players due to a collective bargaining dispute. The 2004-2005 season was cancelled due to another labor dispute.

The NHL suspended its season on March 11 because of concerns of the spread of the novel coronavirus. It resumed with only 24 of the league’s teams divided between two locations in Canada without spectators for a playoff tournament. It concluded on Sept. 28 with the Tampa Bay Lightning defeating the Dallas Stars in the sixth game of the finals.

While the NHL typically starts its season the first week or early in the second week of October, a Jan. 1 start would have it begin nearly three months after its traditional start and about the same time as the NBA season.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said he expected the pro basketball season, which normally begins in early November, not to start until early 2021. The NBA is completing its playoffs in Orlando.