The NHL said as recently as last week that they are still targeting a January start for the 2020-21 season, but other leagues may not be so optimistic. Jeff Marek of Sportsnet reports that at the OHL GM meeting today, a plan was presented that would have their regular season start on February 4. Training camp for the junior league would start on January 23, with a 40-game schedule expected. The AHL meanwhile had their own meeting, this time with the league’s board of governors, which included a new target start date of February 5.
While the idea of hockey returning in February is exciting, it also means nearly a year between meaningful games for many prospects. Leagues shut down in early March this year, and though some teams have found landing spots for their players overseas, many have been limited to training in small groups or individually.
The AHL had originally given a target date of December 4, but “due to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis” that has been moved back two full months. The minor league is much more reliant on ticket sales than the NHL is, while also not being quite as well set up for regional bubbles. With so much uncertainty over the public health situation, individual state, provincial and federal guidelines, and an NHL season that isn’t set in stone yet, even this AHL target is completely temporary. It can—and very well might—be changed again down the line.
For now though, the leagues will hope to get things started in just over three months’ time.