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Gary Bettman announces January 1 start date for 2020-21 NHL season

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SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 06: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman prepares for the first round of the 2020 National Hockey League Draft at the NHL Network Studio on October 06, 2020 in Secaucus, New Jersey. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

During the opening statement of the first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, league commissioner Gary Bettman officially announced the the NHL is pursuing a January 1, 2021 return date for the NHL’s 2020-21 season.

“We really haven’t focused precisely on what we’re going to be doing next season,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said on NHL Network before the start of the 2020 NHL Draft. “I think it’s fairly clear that while Dec. 1 has always been a notional date, we’re focused on the fact that we’re really looking now at Jan. 1 to start the season up. Our hope is to have a full season, full regular season, and to have fans in the building, but there are a lot of things that have to transpire, many of which if not most of which are beyond our control before we can finalize our plans.”

Bettman and Bill Daly have previously expressed that they do not want to prolong next season too deeply into the summer, and they expect to have a full 82-game season. A January return does allow three months of recovery time for the players who participated in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

The league will still have to navigate the possibilities around whether or not crowds will be allowed and what kind of travel restrictions the league will have to work around, especially with a compressed schedule. There’s also no word on how this will affect the 2021 Winter Classic between the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues, scheduled for Jan. 1 at Target Field.

Dates for training camps are still to be determined. NHL free agency opens at noon ET on Oct. 9.