NHL targeting Jan. 1 to begin next season

FILE - In this March 5, 2020, file photo, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) breaks up a pass intended for Montreal Canadiens center Nick Suzuki (14) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Tampa, Fla. This is a Stanley Cup matchup for all of those who like their games to be a bit defensive. The Dallas Stars and the Lightning, two of the league's southernmost teams playing for the title in a bubble at the NHL's most northern arena in Edmonton, both have defensemen who provide plenty of points. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File) (Chris O'Meara, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday night the NHL is targeting a Jan. 1 start for next season.

That declaration came after recent talks between the league and NHL Players’ Association. The new date is a month after the tentative Dec. 1 start.

"It was just over a week ago that we celebrated the successful completion of our 2019-20 return to play with the crowning of the Tampa Bay Lightning as Stanley Cup champions," Bettman said. “Based upon what we have learned and what we know and what we still don’t know, I can say that we are now focused on a Jan. 1 start for next season.”

That could mean kicking things off with the Winter Classic that has become a staple of New Year's Day. The Minnesota Wild are scheduled to host the St. Louis Blues in that game at Target Field, home of Major League Baseball's Twins.

The estimated start for training camps will be announced at a later date. NHL teams are expected to get camps of at least two weeks, just as they did before the expanded playoffs over the summer.

Free agency opens Friday, with the NHL looking to speed through the offseason while planning to play in 2021.

“It’s kind of been refreshing to get back and have somewhat of a tentative date for when we’re going to be coming back,” Washington Capitals defenseman Brenden Dillon said. “The new July 1 is Oct. 9. The new Oct. 3 is seeming to be hopefully Jan. 1. We’re kind of just taking it day by day.”

It’s still unclear what next season will look like, though Bettman has said the league hopes each team plays a full 82 games. NHLPA executive director Don Fehr said players would not do another quarantined bubble for the full season like the playoffs, though pods and other possibilities are being discussed.


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