With a Jan. 1 start date for the 2020-21 season no longer seemingly realistic, the NHL and NHLPA are reportedly now discussing a potential Jan. 15 start, and with a shortened season that could be 56 or 52 games.
The news was first reported by TSN.
The league still officially is targeting a New Year’s Day start, but in an interview Wednesday with Sports Business Journal, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called a Jan. 1 opening for the league "a work in progress.’’
Given that the NHL has not announced a start date for training camp, a Jan. 1 start to the season does not seem feasible. Training camps would need to open in mid-December for that to happen, and players would be coming from all over the world and need to fulfill whatever quarantine requirements are in place where their teams are located.
According to TSN, the NHL and NHLPA on Thursday instead discussed the possibility of a Jan. 1 opening for training camps, and a mid-January start to the season. NBC, the league’s national television broadcast partner, is set to broadcast the summer Olympics, which begin July 23 in Tokyo. The NHL season would need to be completed, and the Stanley Cup awarded, in early to mid-July, to accommodate NBC. Assuming a full 16-team playoffs, with four best-of-seven rounds, a mid-January start means even a 60-game regular season is not possible.
In the lockout seasons of 1994-95 and 2011-12, the league played a 48-game regular season.
Before any season length or start date can be agreed to, however, the NHL and NHLPA have major financial matters to settle. With fans unlikely to be allowed into many arenas because of the coronavirus pandemic, NHL owners are reportedly attempting to get the players to defer more of their salaries than had been agreed to in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was reached during the summer. The players have so far been unwilling to do that.