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NHL Sets 48-Game Minimum for 2020-21 Season [Report]

The NHL has reportedly decided that anything less than a 48-game season makes no sense. That’s the new minumum.

According to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski, the NHL has decided on a bare minimum of games they’re willing to have in order for the 2020-21 season to move forward. The two scribes report in their recent column that the league will play at least 48 regular-season games next season and nothing less.

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While the aim is still the start of January 2021 for the NHL’s next season to get underway, there’s a bit of skepticism that this is possible. If not, adjustments will be made, but if a 48-game season can’t happen, the season will likely be scrapped altogether.

The initial thought was that the NHL wanted to have their season completed ahead of the July Tokyo Olympics. Deputy commissioner Bill Daly says that’s not entirely accurate. He notes:

“I think there is some flexibility if we were to choose that route. There’s a lot left to be played out on the Olympics front too. We have models that extend past the Olympic time period. Those are alternatives that are on the table. I can’t tell you they’re the ones that are necessarily going to be pursued, but I think there’s some flexibility there.”

NHL COVID-19 Tests
NHL COVID-19 Tests

Does This Really Change Much?

At the end of the day, not much changes based on these numbers. The NHL went with a 48-game season during the lockout, so it’s not new territory for them. At the same time, noting that 48 games is the minimum only really gives a baseline for what happens in the worst case scenario. That would be that the season would simply not take place.

A 48-game season is unlikely. The NHL clearly wants to play and is looking at every avenue possible to make that a reality. That includes fans attending in small capacities or fans not attending. It could means bubbles or not bubbles. It might mean realigning the divisions.

All that said, it was probably a fair assumption that if the NHL couldn’t get in at least 48 games, there’d be little reason to move forward.

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