NHL Focusing on Mid-January Start

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According to the Associated Press, the NHL season will not start January 1, The league and NHL Players’ Association are now focusing on opening play in mid-January.

The Mid-January start date is more realistic due to the many issues that need to be resolved before players can begin traveling to their home cities.

The NHL and NHLPA still need to agree on a schedule, with the current plan having between 52 and 56 regular-season games. There has also been talk of a cushion being worked into the schedule in the event games are postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The AP. “various similar concepts are being discussed” when asked about the 52- or 56-game schedule and mid-January start.

Also needing to be resolved is a one-time divisional realignment, with a seven-team all-Canada division due to cross-border travel restrictions, as well as an updated COVID-19 protocol for players and teams.

Under a mid-January start date, players would have to begin reporting after Christmas, followed by an abbreviated training camp and preseason. The regular season would run into early May at the latest, with the Stanley Cup Final ending in late June or early July.

It would be comparable to the 2013 season, which kicked off in mid-January with a 48-game schedule as a result of the lockout. Teams also played a condensed schedule featuring 48 games in under 100 days. In a normal season, teams play 82 games over the span of about 185 days in a schedule that includes breaks for Christmas, the All-Star Game, and a bye week.

The start of the 2020-21 season has been considered flexible based on the uncertainties involving the pandemic. The league initially considered having the season start in late November or early December, before pushing it back to Jan. 1.

Commissioner Gary Bettman raised the likelihood of the date being changed this week during a Sports Business Journal panel discussion by calling it, “… a work in progress.”

The discussions regarding the start to the season have been ongoing, and are separate from the recent economic concerns raised by the NHL.

Just five months after extending the collective bargaining agreement, the league has proposed altering the deal to make up for projected losses affecting the 50-50 revenue split between owners and players.

The CBA calls for players to defer 10% of their salary for the 2021 season and caps how much money will be kept in escrow over the length of the deal.

Last month, the league raised the possibility of having players increase salary deferrals to 20% or 26% and increasing the escrow caps.

Though Bettman said the league is not attempting to renegotiate the CBA, the players and several agents have accused the NHL of trying to renege on what was agreed to in July. Agent Allan Walsh posted a series of tweets this week saying the NHL should have foreseen the possibility of the pandemic lasting into 2021 and the economic impact of lost ticket revenue.


“They have a deal,” Walsh said. “Bottom line, some owners don’t like the deal and want better terms.”

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