As the NHL focuses on a “hub cities” plan to resume the 2019-20 season, it also is evaluating options for when to start the 2020-21 season. According to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun, the league has discussed a December start date.
LeBrun reports the league is hoping to squeeze in a full 82-game schedule next season. The All-Star weekend would be removed and the bye weeks and Christmas holiday break shortened. The regular season would run into May and the playoffs would extend into July.
One of the reasons for the December start date is the amount of time it will take to complete the 2019-20 season, if it resumes. Several team executives told LeBrun that the NHL is willing to go as late as September and maybe October to finish the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Another reason LeBrun gave for the December start date: Teams believe they need fans in arenas next season. Team executives told him that they’re fine finishing this season with no fans because the league has already completed 85 percent of the regular season and earned the corresponding gate money.
“Most teams can’t even think of starting (next season) without fans in the building,” LeBrun writes. “Some organizations have told me they would lose less money by simply staying dark.”
He adds that teams are hopeful a December start would give them enough time to be in a better position to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
A January start for the 2020-21 season has also been floated, but a league source told LeBrun it “would be pushing it.”
The league reportedly scrapped its plan for neutral sites on April 21 and began focusing on “hub cities.” Three days later, Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving said the “hub cities” proposal was gaining steam.
The NHL season has been paused since March 12. Teams have been told to remain in self-quarantine until April 30.