Affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Commissioner Gary Bettman remarked about the targeted start date during the NHL Draft last night.
The 2020 NHL Draft kicked off last night with a pretty big announcement for hockey fans wondering where next season will take us. Commissioner Gary Bettman, who did not have to endure his annual booing from the fans at the Stanley Cup Final due to the closed door environment in Edmonton, began the proceedings by announcing that the NHL and NHLPA reached a joint agreement to target January 1st for the start of the 2020-2021 season. "Tonight, following discussions with the NHL Players' Associations and based on what we have learned and what we know and even what we don't know, I can now say we are focused on a January 1 start for next season," said Bettman.
Previously the two sides had discussed the possibility of a December 1st date when the league announced its Return to Play plans before beginning bubble play in Toronto and Edmonton. When Bettman held a virtual media conference prior to the start of the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final he remarked that it could more likely be late December or January, showing there was still work to be done.
The January 1 start date will rise to the front some interesting questions regarding how the schedule will work. Traditionally the marquee game of opening day is the Stanley Cup Champions, in this case the Tampa Bay Lightning, celebrating at home and raising their banner to the rafters. However, January 1st is also the traditional date of the Bridgestone Winter Classic which was slated to have its 13th year of play and feature the Minnesota Wild for the first time ever.
The Wild are also slated to host the game at the Minnesota Twins Target Field against the St. Louis Blues. This game would mark a second appearance for the Blues, who have also hosted a Winter Classic. Target Field would become the 7th different baseball stadium to host a Winter Classic game and Minnesota would become the 10th different home team.
As the NHL Draft heads to its concluding rounds, we expect to hear another announcement in regards to the official start of training camp and any associated pre-season exhibitions through later communications.