By Michael Strong

NHL commish Gary Bettman is aiming for a Jan. 1 start date for next season.

In an interview with NHL Network yesterday, Bettman reiterated that the league hopes to play a full 82-game season and have fans in arenas. Bettman said planning discussions with the NHL Players’ Association will begin shortly after the free-agency period, which begins Friday.

When the NHL and NHLPA revealed their return-to-play initiatives in July, they targeted Dec. 1 to begin next season, though that date was fluid. The NHL completed its 2019-20 season last month, when the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup, defeating the Dallas Stars in the Edmonton, Alberta, bubble.

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The NHL draft is being held virtually last night and today.