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NHL aims for Jan. 1 2020-2021 season opener

National Hockey LeagueThe NHL and the NHL Players’ Association are aiming for a January 1 2020-2021 season opener, pushing back an original opening date of Dec. 1, 2020 in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NHL and NHLPA previously set Dec. 1 as the tentative start date for next season, with training camp opening Nov. 17, as part of a four-year extension of the NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement that was ratified July 10. But Commissioner Gary Bettman stated multiple times that the 2020-2021 season opener could be pushed back if necessary. Apparently it’s necessary.

“We really haven’t focused precisely on what we’re going to be doing next season,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said before the start of the 2020 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 Stanley Cup Playoffs were completed Sept. 28, when the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars 2-0 in Game 6 of the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton, the hub city for the Final, to win their second championship. During the 65 days after the teams entered the hub cities in Toronto and Edmonton on July 26, there were 33,174 tests administered to team personnel, and zero were positive for COVID-19.

“The key was clearly the collaboration and cooperation we got from everybody, starting with the players and the players’ association, all of our clubs and particularly the owners in the NHL,” Commissioner Bettman said. “We all had to work together if we were going to make this a reality, and it’s something that we and the players very much wanted to do. The players wanted to complete the season they started, but most importantly, we heard from our fans that they wanted us to complete the season as well, and that’s what it was all about.”

The move by the NHL mirrors what is happening in the NBA, which is also looking at a January launch date.

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