While there are still plenty of unknowns with regards to specifics about the NHL season, we at least now have a tentative date for the AHL season.
The AHL announced on Wednesday they are moving their targeted start date for the 2020-21 AHL regular season to Feb. 5, due to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, after initially hoping to start things up at the American League level around the first week of December. AHL President and CEO Scott Howson made the announcement after this week’s vote from the AHL Board of Governors but left plenty of fine details up in the air with a little more than three months in the interim.
“The AHL continues to work with its member clubs to monitor developments and local guidelines in all 31 league cities. Further details regarding the 2020-21 American Hockey League season are still to be determined” read a portion of the statement.
The OHL is similarly expected to announce an early February start to their junior hockey season as well, so there’s a pattern beginning to develop.
While there’s clearly some interest with regard to the start of the season for the Providence Bruins, one also has to wonder just how closely the NHL is going to follow this timeline. And once there is a start date to the season then perhaps some of the currently stagnated NHL player movement will crank up once again.
The NHL initially hoped to start an 82-game season around the beginning of December and has recently hedged its bets toward a start around the Jan. 1 date normally reserved for the Winter Classic. But the NHL recently announced the postponements of both the Winter Classic and the NHL All-Star weekend set for Florida this upcoming season with it looking more and more like it’s going to be a shortened campaign.
Complicating matters is the financial ramifications for the 31 NHL franchises with varied plans accounting for different amounts of fans in the stands based on COVID-19 protocols, and possible pro-rated player salaries if the NHL ends up playing a shortened season. Those things are a little more cut-and-dried at the AHL level and explain why the NHL hasn’t made any formal announcements about their 2020-21 regular season plans as of yet.
But a word of warning: Those hoping or planning for an NHL season shortly after Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s might end up being sorely disappointed when the National Hockey League officials announces a targeted start date.