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AHL sets start date, NHL start date to follow?

The AHL has confirmed it’s start date of February 5, 2021. There are no additional details other than the projected start date. It makes logical sense the the NHL will announce its start date someone soon, as speculation will be rampant following the AHL’s announcement.

But with the NHL still planning on targeting a January 1, 2021 start date, how will that sync up with the AHL? Usually both leagues are in sync. The logistics don’t necessarily make sense, as any player that doesn’t make the NHL roster will need to wait a full month until the AHL season starts.

Can It Work?

Can the NHL start on January 1? Possibly, after all the NHL arranged bubbles over the course of six weeks for a very successful Stanley Cup Playoffs. However given that it’s basically November already, we’d expect to hear some sort of news about their plans. As of now, the only thing we’ve heard is cancellations.

This doesn’t mean the NHL can’t make it work, they’d just need to have some sort of plan in place. Hockey isn’t like football, where the stadiums are open air. If the league wants fans –and they do– then there needs to be some progress with the COVID-19 pandemic other than this “continue life as if there is nothing going on” thing that seems to be going on.

Most Likely Plan

The most likely scenario is, given January 1 is only two months away, the NHL will probably push their start date to February as well. From a logistical stand point, it’s the only thing that works without an awkward gap in the schedules.

This move also gives the NHL time to plan out how to have at least a half season and playoffs. Remember, the league needs to finish up the playoffs before the Summer Olympics next year, so going into August isn’t an option.

Working backwards from the end of July, that means the playoffs begin at the beginning of June. That would mean a four month season for the NHL. The league would probably aim for 12-13 games per month for each club, or a 48-game season. They should be able to figure that out. After all, the league has a lot of experience figuring out shortened seasons.

The trick will be figuring out the COVID logistics. As we’ve seen with baseball and football, positive COVID tests are going to happen outside of the bubble. It’s safe to assume the NHL won’t go with a bubble for six months. As of now, all we can do is speculate.

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  • I think it makes sense for the players to get through the Holidays and then have camp/preseason in January, with a Feb 1st start.

    I would imagine, with an assumed shortened season (60 games?), that substantially all the games, if not all the games, will be in conference games.

  • You start training camp January 3rd and you have 3 weeks of camp plus 3 or 4 pre-season games and kickoff on Feb1. Maybe even with an expanded roster for the first month of the season. The big question is if everyone plays home games, will they limit travel. I can see more metro division games than anything else.

    • I agree with your comment. While I wonder if this will happen – I would not be surprised if there is a schedule that teams only play their conference during the season and the playoffs. Similar to what Baseball did, although not exactly a split along East-Central-West.

  • Don’t have a clue as to what they’ll do. The situation is too fluid. If pressed though, I think they should start as early as possible in the bubble … and open up some as the situation permits.

  • Man Trump has really failed this country… Commander in chief bailed on USA a long time ago..

    I don’t see the how the virus is suppose to be crazy in December but chill asf February?

  • It actually makes sense for the NHL to start a little before the AHL. Players get sent down well after camp starts and so real AHL practices start later. So it might make sense to start the NHL on say Jan 22 or Jan 25, but not really any earlier than that.

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