The American Hockey League (AHL) announced that it is now shooting for Feb. 5, 2021 as the start date for its 2020-21 season. This falls into a similar window as the OHL, which will aim for Feb. 4, according to reporters including TSN’s Darren Dreger.
In particular, the AHL news lends credence to Golden Knights owner Bill Foley mentioning that February would be a likely (hopeful) start time for the NHL’s 2020-21 season. Naturally, a lot is subject to change for both the NHL and AHL to hold a 2020-21 season, including the idea of an All-Canadian Division for the NHL.
How the U.S. and Canada handle border crossings/international travel factors into plans for the NHL, AHL, and so on.
AHL hopes for Feb. 5 start to 2020-21 season; NHL parallels
This bit from the AHL release stands out as another key note:
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.
While NHL teams continue to loan prospects to various overseas leagues, some likely wanted prospects to gain seasoning in the AHL, among other spots. Although this change wasn’t so hard to fathom, some NHL clubs may have kept their fingers crossed about the AHL kicking off its 2020-21 season sooner.
Yet, with COVID-19 cases remaining alarmingly high in the U.S., it’s no surprise that Feb. 5, 2021 is the new hopeful start date.
Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek shares more details about the OHL’s 2020-21 season plans from that meeting:
OHL GM's meeting has concluded. Some details…
– Season starts Feb 4th
– Training camps start Jan 23rd
– European + American players arrive Jan 8 + quarantine
– 40 game season
– 4 teams from each conference make playoffs, so 8 teams total.
— Jeff Marek (@JeffMarek) October 28, 2020
As far as the NHL goes, exec Bill Daly recently gave The Athletic’s Michael Russo insight on the wide variety of plans being discussed (sub required). Among other points, Daly mentioned that the NHL may see a greater challenge pulling off a 2020-21 season than it faced with the playoff bubble.
“ … You need to gather as much information as you can, you need to take as much time as you can, and you need to make the best decisions you can,” Daly said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but there are options that we can pursue, and hopefully we pick the right ones.”
Among many choices, picking the right start dates could be crucial for the AHL, NHL, and other leagues for 2020-21. From the Summer Olympics and other factors, there are a lot of things to consider.