NHL 2020-21 Season To Kick Off in December?

There have been increasing reports that things are heating up as to getting some sort of timeline for the NHL to return to the ice. With that said, it has led to a lot of different speculation leading to how things might unfold for the rest of this season and beyond. The cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics opened up plenty of potential television broadcast opportunities and made things a little easier to extend into the summer as opposed to finishing up in June like normal. Now, we’ve heard some concepts for how things would unfold for the 2020-21 campaign.

According to Pierre Lebrun at The Athletic, the NHL is looking at starting the 2020-21 season later in the year. There have been reports that the league could start the season either in November or December as opposed to kicking off in early October. The delay would be in order to give players a chance to recover and allow teams the ability to make moves in what would constitute something close to a normal offseason. Despite the later start in the year, the league still plans on running a full 82-game slate next season regardless of when the puck drops to kick off the campaign. How will that become a viable option?

For starters, it would mean that the league would start finding ways to tighten up their schedule. That means there are no real extended breaks on the slate for next year if that takes place. That means the holiday break would be trimmed down. In addition, the proverbial “bye weeks” where teams are off for five to seven days without any games at some point during the course of the year. The more compressed schedule could lead to roster limit changes as teams would want to find ways to avoid potential injuries due to a lack of breathers during the year.

A potential bone of contention for fans of the league would be the scrapping of All-Star weekend. With that said, however, the fact that we’ve seen guys step out of the All-Star Game and choosing instead to serve a one-game suspension coming out of the break has taken some of the luster out of the contest. Alexander Ovechkin is a prime example for this behavior as he missed this year’s festivities as he said he “had to listen to his body” and to be in prime shape for the postseason. With the shifting of the way things go in the All-Star Game, it’s hard to generate a ton of excitement with the All-Star Weekend featuring teams from each division instead of the usual conference format.

One of the other reasons that the league is contemplating the later start to the year is to increase the potential chance of playing in front of fans for the majority of next season. Whether that comes to fruition remains to be seen as there still are a lot of hurdles to overcome in that regard. However, by pushing things back conceivably a month or two, it does give extra time to increase those odds. In turn, the return of fans would drive up revenue for the league and its teams, as ticket sales are a big percentage of the league’s cash flow.

When you get right down to it, a later start to next season is a smart decision. Increasing the chances of playing in front of fans is a wise move for a league driven by ticket sales and merchandise in addition to their TV money. Giving players and teams a chance at some form of a normal offseason would be advantageous after coming back following the pause for the COVID-19 pandemic. It could potentially also help in ratings as the season wouldn’t spend most of the first half of the year competing with the NFL and college football for ratings.

Would this be the first domino in potentially changing the sports calendar going forward? It’s unclear at this point. However, it does at least give an idea into how the league is looking forward to figure out how things would be the rest of this season and beyond.

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Chris King

Chris King has been immersed in the world of professional and collegiate sports for more than three decades. Whether it's playing pickup games or being involved in organized sports to being a fan, he's checked all the boxes. From the NFL to arena football, the NHL to the KHL, the NBA to the WNBA to college hoops, and even MLB to the KBO. If it's out there, he's covered it and bet on it as well, as Chris has been an expert bettor in his career. Before joining Winners and Whiners back in 2015, his work appeared around the internet and in print. He's written books for Ruckus Books about college basketball, the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, golf, and the World Cup. If you're looking for the inside track on hitting a winner, do yourself a favor and read what Chris has to say.