NHL targeting Jan. 1 to begin next season

Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos (91) is presented the Stanley Cup from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman as they celebrate after defeating the Dallas Stars in the NHL Stanley Cup hockey finals, in Edmonton, Alberta, on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

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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For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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