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NHL Could Delay Start of 2020-2021 Regular Season To Finish Current Season

James Murphy
by in NHL on
  • The National Hockey League is tentatively looking at a July or August re-start though the ‘official’ position is that there is no timeline.
  • Commissioner Gary Bettman has confirmed that the start of the 2020-2021 season could be delayed if necessary.
  • The expectation is that the 2020-2021 NHL regular season would start in December.

The National Hockey League is still hoping to finish the 2019-2020 regular season and playoffs. On Wednesday, the NHL and NHLPA issued a joint statement to debunk rumors and speculation that a return was imminent and insisted that no timeline has been established. That may or may not be true but whenever hockey returns the league has plenty of flexibility for finishing this season as well as starting next season.

On Thursday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed that the start of next season could be delayed to complete the suspended 2019-2020 season. Bettman is too much of a lawyer to commit to anything but here’s what he had to say in a phoner with the NHL Network:

“We have a great deal of flexibility in terms of when we can start. There’s no magic for next season of starting in October as we traditionally do. If we have to start in November or December, that’s something that will be under consideration.”

“We’re going to try and make good, prudent, careful judgments. This isn’t a race to be first back. When we come back, we want it to be at the right time, for the right reasons, under the right circumstances.”

Bettman did make clear that he won’t jeopardize having a full schedule next season just to finish this season. That being said, he’s still optimistic that the suspended season can be completed although he won’t commit to a timeframe or even that he’s thinking about a timeframe:

“We’re considering all the possibilities, though I think the rumor, the speculation far exceeds any decisions that have been made. Doing due diligence is a far cry from saying any decisions have been made because no decisions have been made.”


There’s good reason to think that both the NBA and NHL are targeting a December start to their 2020-2021 seasons. One scenario is that the NHL would start their season on or around December 15 with the NBA starting on Christmas Day. In both cases, there’s significant reticence to playing games without fans next season. Elliotte Friedman made this observation in his Wednesday column at Sportsnet.ca:

“A December start for the 2020–21 season is a real possibility, both in the NHL and NBA. The leagues realize that games with fans this summer are not happening. No one likes that, but everyone recognizes it’s a necessity. Next year? I think there’ll be much more pushback to fan-less games.

“Carolina owner Tom Dundon went public with his dislike, and he’s not alone. One exec, who shares a building with an NBA team, says he wouldn’t be surprised if that league starts on Christmas Day, with the NHL a couple of weeks earlier.”

One thing that likely will happen in the near term is the re-opening of team facilities. On Wednesday, the NHL sent a memo suggesting a ‘mid to late May’ timeframe. Here’s the relevant quote in the NHL’s ‘legal brief’ tone that we all know and love:

“The precise date of transition to phase two, during which players might return to small group activities in NHL club training facilities, remains undetermined. However, provided that conditions continue to trend favorably — and, subject to potential competitive concerns as between disparately situated markets — we believe we may be able to move to phase two at some point in the mid-to-later portion of May.”

One positive externality to the COVID-19 sports shutdown will be the unprecedented volume of betting opportunities when play does resume. For example, we could have over a full year of wall to wall NHL hockey and (assuming that they resume their suspended season) possibly NBA basketball.

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