[Report] 48 Games Is "The Absolute Minimum" For 2020-21 NHL Regular Season Schedule

The NHL and NHLPA are still working extensively on a format and structure for the 2020-21 season, which won’t take place until some point in the new year.

There are so many challenges to sort through: The season length, schedule format, potential traveling hurdles, possible bubble cities and more. And really, it’s anybody’s guess when they’ll have something set in stone.

Although the league would like to run an 82-game schedule, that seems highly unlikely at this point. Commissioner Gary Bettman prefers if the season doesn’t go too far into the summer.

Not only that, but NBC – the NHL’s broadcast partner – will also broadcast next year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. It’s widely believed that the NHL would like to conclude the regular season before the Olympic games, which begin on July 23.

One way or another, the league is likely looking at a shortened regular season. Citing sources, Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski ESPN.com reported that “a 48-game season is considered the absolute minimum at this point.”

The NHL had a 48-game schedule for the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. The campaign opened on Jan. 19, and the Stanley Cup Final concluded on June 24.

So if the league decided to end the 2020-21 campaign before the Olympics, there would be time in there to have more than 48 games on the regular season schedule.

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The 1994-95 NHL season was also shortened to 48 games because of a lockout. The regular season began on Jan. 20, and the Stanley Cup Final ended on June 24, the same date as the 2012-13 season.

As time passes, a Jan. 1 start for the 2020-21 season appears to be more and more unlikely. If an agreement isn’t finalized in the next couple of weeks, we could be looking at a mid/late January or early-to-mid February start.

The NBA, meanwhile, is hoping to begin the 2020-21 season before Christmas day, with potentially $500 million to $1 billion at stake. Commissioner Adam Silver warned the teams that they’re running short on time to do, however.

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