The NHL's new season will most likely begin in the new year. This is according to a report from Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, who posted Tuesday that the NHL and NHL Players Association are targeting Jan.1 as the season's potential start date.
Friedman added that New Year's Day, with training camp leading into the opening of the season, was not a guarantee. The news at least shifts expectations from Dec. 1, the date the league scheduled when it first unveiled its Return to Play initiative in July that set out the plan for the finish of the 2019-20 season in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles.
The league itself later confirmed this news through a tweet from the NHL PR account.
Commissioner Gary Bettman hinted at this kind of news during his state of the league press conference that he gave prior to the recently concluded Stanley Cup Final between the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning. He didn't give a definitive answer on a start date, but talked about how starting in 2021 was a very real possibility.
As for things that were more certain at the time of that press conference, Bettman noted an active desire to play a full 82-game season. How that will happen in a condensed calendar remains to be seen.
Bettman also said that it would be "conceivable" that next season would start without fans and then transition into fans attending games in a limited capacity, but noted that it was just speculation on his part.
"How and when we do that is something that we don't all have enough information to make any decisions," Bettman said.