NHL still eyeing mid-January start; games in arenas, hubs possible

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Talks continue between the NHL and NHLPA as they iron out details on how the 2020-21 season will play out.

Speaking on a panel at the World Hockey Forum in Moscow, Commissioner Gary Bettman said that a mid-January start remains the target and there’s been no decision yet on whether teams will play in their own arenas or in hubs again.

“… It is clear that we will not be playing an 82-game schedule for the regular season, which we normally do, but we’re going to try and play as many games as possible,” Bettman said via NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika.

Bettman has been getting advice on the medical side, including from Dr. Anthony Fauci, who recommended the league go with hubs. The current COVID-19 regulations in each market will play a big factor in how the NHL proceeds with formulating the regular season schedule.

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“If enough teams can’t play, again, without fans, in their own facilities, then we may have to move more and more towards a hub,” Bettman said. “It may be that some teams are playing in other buildings. It may be that a whole group of teams have to play in other buildings.”

Bettman noted that as they will attempt to play as many games as they can, teams will be doing so within their divisions. Those divisions, as has been reported, will likely feature a one-year realignment that will see all seven Canadian teams grouped together due to the Canada-U.S. border restrictions.

“We may have to, only for the regular season, have the Canadian teams play each other in Canada in one or more cities and then we have to realign the remaining 24 teams in the United States,” Bettman said.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Columbus, Newark, Las Vegas, Edmonton, Toronto could end up as short-term hubs.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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