The NHL is still targeting Jan. 1, or close to that date, to start its next season. But it won’t start with the Winter Classic, the league’s signature outdoor game typically played on New Year’s Day.
The league announced on Thursday it was postponing both the Winter Classic between the Wild and Blues at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Jan. 1 and the All-Star Weekend in Sunrise, Florida, on Jan. 29-30.
"Fan participation, both in arenas and stadiums as well as in the ancillary venues and events that we stage around the Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend is integral to the success of our signature events," NHL senior executive vice president and chief content officer Steve Mayer said in a statement released by the league. "Because of the uncertainty as to when we will be able to welcome our fans back to our games, we felt that the prudent decision at this time was to postpone these celebrations until 2022."
The league insisted today’s announcement "does not impact" the NHL and NHL Players’ Association target to start the new season. But Vegas owner Bill Foley recently said many owners would be reluctant to take the financial hit of regular-season games being played without fans in the arena.
The NHL played its postseason in fan-free bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton.