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Gary Bettman. Photo: Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

The NHL was the first major North American sports league to complete its 2020 season, meaning it's now the first to enter the offseason — and set its sights on next year's campaign.

The state of play: The draft takes place next Tuesday and Wednesday (mock draft). Free agency opens next Friday (top players).

What's next: There's obviously some time pressure for the NHL to figure out next season's schedule, but if this summer was any indication, expect the league to be patient in addressing the specifics.

  • "When we announced the return to play format in May, some suggested I should have also announced where we were going to play," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told Axios on a call last week.
  • "But I intentionally didn't do that because we were continuing to study the path of the virus. We only made the decision when we absolutely had to."

More from Bettman:

  • When will next season start? "Our goal is to play a full regular season and playoffs starting in late December or early January, probably. But just like this year, timing may not be completely within our control."
  • Will you use a bubble format again? "I don't believe we can do what we did this time and have the players in a bubble for six months. That's just not practical, and it would be inappropriate to even ask players to do that."
  • Will there be fans at games? "Obviously we want our fans back in the buildings as soon as it's safe and appropriate, but that's not a decision we get to make. It's the government health officials who get to make that decision."
  • What major factors are you weighing? "First off, tell me whether or not we can put people in the building. That's No. 1. Two, where COVID's going to be, in general and in the specific places we may want to play. Three, tell me what our access is going to be to cross the Canada-U.S. border."

Go deeper

Dec 21, 2020 - Podcasts

Milwaukee Bucks owner: NBA teams will lose money this season

The NBA tips off tomorrow night, making it the first major U.S. sports league to play a second season amidst the pandemic. No bubble this time, but also not many in-person fans.

Axios Re:Cap talks with Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry on the business of basketball, how much he expects to lose this season and that massive new deal for two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Focus group: Former Trump voters say he should never hold office again

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

"Relief" is the top emotion some swing voters who used to support Donald Trump say they felt as they watched President Biden's swearing-in, followed by "hope."

Why it matters: For voters on the bubble between parties, this moment is less about excitement for Biden or liberal politics than exhaustion and disgust with Trump and a craving for national healing. Most said Trump should be prohibited from ever holding office again.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.