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Lightning Round: AHL targets February 5 as the potential start of the 2020-21 season

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The OHL also targets February as the anticipated start date.

Winnipeg Jets v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Casey Brooke Lawson/NHLI via Getty Images

As the AHL President and CEO Scott Howson announced yesterday, the Board of Governors approved moving the potential start of the 2020-21 regular season to February 4, 2021. Previously the AHL targeted December 4, 2020 as the start date, however the league agreed that it became unrealistic due to the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic in USA and Canada.

The AHL is still hoping that fans will be allowed in attendance, however it’s very hard to predict the state of the pandemic in February. Another hope is that the AHL will be able to adjust the season with the NHL regular season. Usually the AHL season starts shortly after the NHL season.

According to AP news, the league is discussing a possibility of moving several teams to Canada if the NHL decide to form a Canadian division due to Canadian border restrictions.

One possibility involves the AHL adjusting to form a Canadian division if the NHL does so because of U.S.-Canada border restrictions, which would mean moving teams in Bakersfield and Stockton, California, and Utica, New York, north to be in the same country as their parent clubs. But a coronavirus testing pilot project in the province of Alberta that could reduce quarantine time when entering Canada provides hope that might not be necessary.

The date of start is still tentative as the AHL will follow the guidance of health specialists and doctors.

The Syracuse Crunch owner Howard Dolgon expressed confidence that the Crunch will be ready to start the season either with fans or without them, however he admitted that it can’t be said for sure due to current situation. Dolgon also mentioned that the team will have to “take the financial hit“ if fans won’t be allowed. [Syracuse.com]

“I think we could play without fans. I think it would be a totally different structure and a different relationship with every team and the NHL,” he said. “Nothing’s going to be what we’re used to. I think the length of the season will almost certainly be condensed, maybe significantly. If you’re looking at now, an earliest February start, getting in 76 regular-season games is probably just impossible. I think everything’s going to be different. We’re just going to have to adjust accordingly.”

The OHL yesterday also released the schedule of their Return to Play plan with potential start of the season on February 4, 2021 and start of training camps on January 23, 2021.

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