Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
The NHL has discussed the 2020-21 NHL season starting in December with the 31 teams, according to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun. The NHL is still hoping to play a full 82-game slate next season.
LeBrun said that a truncated schedule could result in a shorter break over Christmas and eliminating the bye-weeks and the 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend. When Columbus was awarded the NHL All-Star Game in 2013, the lockout year, and it was canceled, the city hosted it in 2015. There was no All-Star Game in 2014 due to the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
That would mean the regular season would conclude in May 2021 and the Stanley Cup would be awarded in July.
There are two reasons why starting next season in December is being discussed: the amount of time that it will take to complete the 2019-20 season if play resumes. According to some teams, the league has said that the season could end in September or October. The second is that a lot of teams think they need fans back in seats next season before opening the doors. Most teams can’t even imagine beginning next season without fans in seats.
The league is hoping December will be enough time for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. Some teams said that starting the season in January wouldn’t be out of the question but an NHL spokesperson responded that it would be pushing in.
LeBrun added that the next phase of the NHL returning could start around May 15 with players practicing in small groups. Most players have never gone this long without skating.
According to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet, in recent days, multiple return-to-play timelines have started circulating among team executives and player agents that feature many general consistencies about how the next few months could play out:
May 15-31: Informal, small-group skates
June 1-30: Training camps and exhibition play
July 1-Sept. 30: Completion of remaining 189 regular-season games in centralized locations, followed by Stanley Cup playoffs
Off-season (free agency, arbitration, etc.)
Mid-November: Training camps open for 2020-21 season
Mid- to late-December: Regular season begins
By Harrison Brown