Report: NHL mulling start of 2021 season at Lake Louise on Jan. 1 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The NHL has played outdoors on New Year’s Day every year since the inception of the Winter Classic in 2008. Now, the league may be planning at a picture-esque venue to start its season in 2021.
After the league and its players’ association announced they are targetting Jan. 1 as the start date of the 2021 season, The Star’s Mark Zwolinski reported that the NHL could be eyeing Lake Louise as the venue.
Located in Alberta, Canada, Lake Louise is best known for its mountain backdrop and turquoise lakes. Zwolinski also reported the NHL has reviewed three possible durations for next season: 48 games, 60 games, and a normal 82-game regular season plus playoffs.
Wanting to complete their season before the postponed Tokoyo Summer Olympics, which is scheduled to start July 23, the NHL will have to consider coronavirus precautions if the pandemic is not dealt with before the start of the season. To crown the 2019-20 champions, the league opened league bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto to maintain a safe and healthy end to the season.
If they want to crown a 2021 champion, the NHL will have to be just as creative. Starting out the season in Lake Louise could be just the start they’re looking for – a marketable, photogenic, outdoor facility. Still, as Zwolinski points out, Lake Louise continues to be a desirable destination during the pandemic, so booking hotels and welcoming fans could create some headaches.
Still, if the NHL figures out a way to safely play at Lake Louise’s beautiful scenery, the outdoor game could rival the 2014 Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs in front of 105,491 fans at Michigan’s Big House.