The 2020-21 NHL season is being targeted to start Jan. 1, the NHL and NHL Players' Association announced Tuesday.
The estimated timing for the start of training camp will be announced at a later date.
"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."
The NHL and NHLPA previously set Dec. 1 as the tentative start date for next season, with training camp opening Nov. 17, as part of a four-year extension of the NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement that was ratified July 10. But Commissioner Bettman stated multiple times that the dates could be pushed back if necessary.
The NHL paused the 2019-20 season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. Play resumed Aug. 1 with the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which had 12 teams from the Eastern Conference playing at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto and 12 teams from the Western Conference playing at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
Under the 24-team Return to Play Plan, seven teams did not qualify to compete in the Qualifiers based on points percentage.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs were completed Sept. 28, when the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars 2-0 in Game 6 of the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton, the hub city for the Final, to win their second championship. During the 65 days after the teams entered the hub cities in Toronto and Edmonton on July 26, there were 33,174 tests administered to team personnel, and zero were positive for COVID-19.
"The key was clearly the collaboration and cooperation we got from everybody, starting with the players and the players' association, all of our clubs and particularly the owners in the NHL," Commissioner Bettman said. "We all had to work together if we were going to make this a reality, and it's something that we and the players very much wanted to do. The players wanted to complete the season they started, but most importantly, we heard from our fans that they wanted us to complete the season as well, and that's what it was all about."
The draft is being held virtually, with the first round on Tuesday and Rounds 2-7 on Wednesday (11:30 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN1). It was originally scheduled for June 26-27 at Bell Centre in Montreal but was postponed March 25.
NHL free agency opens at noon ET on Oct. 9.