COVID-19 has forced many sports leagues to postpone games and even entire seasons. When the virus began to spread across the country, the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs for the 2019-20 season were pushed back to a significantly later start date. In 2018, the playoffs began on Sunday, April 1 and ran until Thursday, June 7. For the 2019-20 season, the playoffs began Saturday, Aug. 1 and recently ended Monday, Sept. 28. Naturally, hockey fans wondered whether the 2020-21 season would start on Tuesday, Dec. 1. The NHL announced that the season will not begin until Jan. 1, 2021. With the way cases are surging in many states, the new start date is being referred to as the “target” start date, and it is not yet official. The delay in the season opener has fans questioning if the playoffs will once again be delayed and how far back the new start date will be. Perhaps the biggest question that lingers is: when will things finally go back to normal?
The season announcement came shortly before the NHL revealed that the All-Star Game and the 2021 Winter Classic are now officially canceled due to complications from COVID-19. The Winter Classic is a fan favorite. Instead of playing at their home arenas, two teams travel to an outdoor arena and play there instead. This gives fans who do not have an NHL hockey team in their home state an excuse to travel. The Winter Classic is typically held around New Year’s day, but this year, New Year’s will be the start of a new season.
The pandemic isn’t just affecting the U.S. NHL teams. Currently, Canada is home to seven NHL teams. Canada has significantly lower COVID-19 numbers, and some wonder how the Canadians are handling the postponement of the upcoming season. The United States currently has 9.57 million total cases compared to Canada’s 248,000. Because both countries are involved in the NHL and no training camps have begun, the Canadian teams are not permitted to begin camps despite their lower case numbers. While there is some confusion on the upcoming season, fans should remember that when the NHL is safe to return to play, it will do so.
That being said, just because the NHL will return to big screen TV’s, organizations may not allow fans in stadiums. For those of you who were planning on purchasing tickets, be advised that some arenas will not necessarily be selling them. Some teams have announced they will allow fans because, without them, they simply couldn’t survive financially. Fans should keep their eye out for future updates on the NHL as we get closer to the new year.