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NHL hopes to play a full season in 2020-21

The league does not want the current coronavirus-related hiatus to affect next season’s schedule.

The NHL hopes it will be able to play a full 82-game season in 2020-21.
The NHL hopes it will be able to play a full 82-game season in 2020-21.
Nick Wass/AP

The NHL playoffs should be starting in a little more than two weeks. But the league is operating with uncertainty that nearly every sports entity shares in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Postseason play will not begin on April 8, as was scheduled, and it’s unclear when hockey will return. The CDC on Sunday recommended no gatherings with more than 50 people for eight weeks.

What the league does know is that it does not want the hiatus to impact the ability to play a full 82 games during the 2020-21 regular season.

“The only definite for us is we certainly don’t want to do anything around a resumption of play this season that will impact our ability to have a full season next year,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The Athletic. “So that’s kind of the outside parameters and rules we’re following currently. Everything else is kind of up for grabs for lack of a better term. There are lots of possibilities. We do have people working internally on those scenarios and what they look like and what the feasibility is.”

Among the many variables at play, Daly said, were television network partner obligations, availability of teams’ arenas, details to iron out with the players union and whether games would even be open to fans.

“That’s why I said I don’t think I’m ruling anything out other than we’re going to make decisions to try and preserve our ability to have a full season next year,” he said.

An unnamed member of the Ottawa Senators tested positive for COVID-19, the team announced Tuesday, giving the NHL its first confirmed case of the disease. Prior to that, a San Jose Sharks arena worker had received a positive test.

“People’s health and safety has to be our primary concern and that’s not only our players, that’s our fans and that’s people in general,” Daly told The Athletic. ”Not even necessarily associated with our game in any meaningful way. So we have to do our part societally to make sure we’re doing the right things and making the right decisions.”