As the NHL works towards an agreement with the NHL Players Association to get the 2020-21 season underway, the league and its teams based in New York State — the New York Islanders, New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres — have had discussions with state officials about their plans for the upcoming season. The NHL is reportedly eyeing a Jan. 13 start date for the new season, but there remain several major details to iron out before an announcement can be made.
“The NHL and New York-based teams are discussing with State health officials the potential plans for the upcoming professional hockey season,” the New York State Department of Health said in a statement to NYI Hockey Now. “The Department of Health issued professional sports guidance in Phase 4 of the State’s reopening and all professional sports operations must adhere to these standards.”
New York State’s phased reopening earlier this year allowed for professional sporting events to take place without fans in the stands and limited personnel on-site for games and practices. The New York Mets and New York Yankees both used their home stadiums during the shortened major league baseball season over the summer, and the Islanders were allowed to practice at Northwell Health Ice Center in July before leaving for the Toronto bubble.
One of the issues the NHL has to decide on is where games will be played during the 2020-21 season. The preferred choice would be for teams to play in their home arenas, which would allow for some teams to have fans in attendance.
If that is the case, the New York Islanders will play one final season at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale before moving to UBS Arena for the 2021-22 season. The Islanders and the Coliseum are operating under the notion that games will be played there this year and are making the necessary preparations, AM New York Metro reported.
It’s unclear if Nassau County has been in touch with the team about COVID-19 protocols and preparations for Nassau Coliseum. A request for comment to County Executive Laura Curran’s office went unanswered.
It is unlikely that New York Islanders fans will be allowed in the building by the start of the new NHL season. COVID-19 cases have continued to go up across the Empire State and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned on Monday that indoor dining and other non-essential business could be shut down if the strain on hospitals in the state continued.
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