NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has announced that it plans to start its 2020/21 campaign on January 1 as the competition hopes to operate a full schedule with fans in attendance.
The news, which has also been agreed by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association, was announced ahead of the competition’s virtual draft and sees the tournament push forward its tentative resumption date of December 1.
Bettman stated: “We really haven’t focused precisely on what we’re going to be doing next season. 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.”
The original plan for NHL’s resumption was to commence in December with training camps set to open on November 17. However, with the recent changes it has not been revealed when training camps will operate.
Due to the global health pandemic, the NHL’s 2019/20 campaign suffered from delays, restricting and COVID-19 restrictions which resulted in fans not attending its playoffs. The competition opted to restart its tournament with a ‘Stanley Cup Qualifiers’ format in which 12 teams from each conference competed in separate stadium hubs in order to go into the playoffs.
The NHL season concluded on September 28 as the Tampa Bay Lightning came out victorious. Overall, Bettman praised all involved with the completion of its campaign, highlighting how impressive of a feat it was to safely run the tournament.
He added: “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.
“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.”