Sports News

NHL aiming for mid-January start to new season, reports say

(Reuters) - The National Hockey League (NHL) is targeting a mid-January start to its season that would wrap up the Stanley Cup Final in July, according to multiple media reports on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: May 27, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks at a press conference before game one of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

According to TSN, the league and NHL Players’ Association have shared multiple draft schedules, including a 56-game and 52-game regular-season scenario instead of the usual 82 games.

A typical NHL season runs from October to June but the Tampa Bay Lightning won the 2019-20 Stanley Cup in September after the COVID-19 outbreak forced a suspension in play in mid-March.

ESPN reported that there are still financial issues that have to be worked out between the two sides and that owners want additional cash flow to kick-start the season and have asked players to tweak their financial arrangements.

Neither the NHL or NHLPA immediately responded to requests for comment on the 2020-21 season.

Earlier this week, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told a Sports Business Journal panel that the target date for the new season remains a fluid situation.

“That is a work in progress influenced largely by what we’re hearing from the medical experts,” said Bettman.

“COVID is going through a second wave, which could be worse than the first wave... we are taking our time and making sure, as we look to ways to move forward, we are focused on health and safety and doing the right things.”

Unlike the recent post-season which was held entirely in two Canadian cities to limit travel, the NHL is not expected to have a so-called bubble environment for the 2020-21 campaign.

Teams would reportedly play in their regular arenas but there would likely be a temporary realignment including an all-Canadian division given the border restrictions with the United States due to COVID-19.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris