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Road to Upcoming NHL, NBA Seasons

Basketball

Will NHL, NBA seasons happen? and what will they look like?

November 05, 2020
SOURCE: DOUGLAS P. DEFELICE/GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: DOUGLAS P. DEFELICE/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Much like the road to 270 electoral votes, the journey to the new NBA and NHL seasons is all over the place.

How so?: Let’s start with the NBA. Originally, they wanted to wait to begin the season until fans could attend games (imagine!), then they teased us with a Christmas Day tipoff, and last week they floated an MLK Day start date. Now it looks like they’re back to December. Just as Taylor predicted.

  • The NBA’s players association will formally vote on the December 22nd start date as soon as today, and if the date is approved (which it’s expected to be), then the league will target a 72-game season. If it’s not approved and no games are played in December, the league could lose up to $1 billion.

And the NHL?: They’ve flip-flopped, too. Initially aiming for December 1st, it looks like a January 1st start date is the new goal — though the annual New Year's Day Winter Classic game has already been canceled. The season will have 48 games at a minimum, but it could go the full 82.

  • The issue for the NHL’s return to play is spectators. In comparison to the NBA, the NHL relies more on ticket revenue, so playing in empty arenas would be financially infeasible for most teams. Some team owners have even suggested calling off the season to save money, but NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has shut that down. Phewf.
  • Bettman has said, though, that the season doesn’t have to end the same way it started. That’s to say, if the season starts without fans, it could move to a bubble or have full capacity crowds by the end of it — it all depends on the state of COVID-19 in North America. Just like literally everything else.