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NHL already postpones 2021 Winter Classic, All-Star weekend

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — That Jan. 1 start date the NHL is hoping for is looking a lot less likely.

The NHL announced Thursday the postponements of the 2021 Winter Classic at Target Field in Minneapolis, as well as the 2021 All-Star Weekend (Jan. 29-30, 2021) in Sunrise, Florida (home of the Panthers, near Fort Lauderdale).

A general view of the NHL Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium on New Year's Day in 2019.

The Minnesota Wild were supposed to play the St. Louis Blues in the NHL's marquee outdoor classic on January 1.

But with the pandemic still raging and thousands of fans unable to attend together at an event like the Winter Classic, it was no surprise to see it postponed.

"Both events have been postponed due to the ongoing uncertainty resulting from the coronavirus," the NHL said in a statement. "The League intends to return to both Minnesota and Florida for these signature events in the near future."

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“Fan participation, both in arenas and stadiums as well as in the ancillary venues and events that we stage around the Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend, is integral to the success of our signature events,” said Steve Mayer, NHL senior executive vice president and chief content officer. “Because of the uncertainty as to when we will be able to welcome our fans back to our games, we felt that the prudent decision at this time was to postpone these celebrations until 2022 when our fans should be able to enjoy and celebrate these tentpole events in-person, as they were always intended.

"We are also considering several new and creative events that will allow our fans to engage with our games and teams during this upcoming season.”

There has been growing speculation the NHL is looking to begin its season around Feb. 1 — maybe a couple weeks sooner or later — and attempt a 48-game season, much like lockout-shortened seasons they've had twice before in their history.

In that scenario, the NHL could still have a full, 16-team playoff, and conclude the playoffs before the Summer Olympics begin in July (which the NHL's prime television network, NBC, televises across all its platforms).

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan