The NHL and its players have agreed on a tentative start date for what would have been its 2020-21 season. Six days after crowning the Tampa Bay Lightning as Stanley Cup champion of its coronavirus-shortened campaign, the league and the NHL Players’ Association are targeting January 1 to start the new season.
The league had been looking at December 1 as a start date after completing its virus-interrupted 2019-20 season in a two-city “bubble.” No word yet as to whether fans will be allowed to attend games. A start date for training camps also remains in flux.
“We really haven’t focused precisely on what we’re going to be doing next season,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said on NHL Network today. “I think it’s fairly clear that while December 1 has always been a notional date, we’re focused on the fact that we’re really looking now at January 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.”
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The NHL restarted its 2019-20 season on August 1 with a tweaked 24-team postseason tournament that included a best-of-three first round and a round robin for the top-finishing teams during the regular season. Two months and zero positive COVID-19 tests later, the Tampa Bay Lightning skated off with the second Stanley Cup in its history, beating the Dallas Stars in five games.
Elsewhere, NBA Commissioner said today that his league is certain about a start date for next season. “It’s a bit premature for us to be making decisions about next season yet,” he said in a sit-down with Rachel Nichols before tonight’s Game 4 of the NBA Finals
(watch the interview below). “I think baseball and football would acknowledge that, if you’re not in a bubble, it increases the chance. This is a highly contagious virus, and someone’s gonna get it.” The league restarted its interrupted regular season on July 30 and played those remaining games and its playoffs in a bubble.
Meanwhile, the NHL is holding the first round of its 2020 entry draft today. After the Los Angeles Kings drafted Quinton Byfield at No. 2 overall, the team from the capital of the Great White North selected next. The Ottawa Senators saw a famous Canadian and University of Ottawa alum use his bully pulpit to make that selection, after an introduction by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. What is Jeopardy! and who is Alex Trebek?
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