The NHL has postponed the 2021 Winter Classic and All-Star Game “due to the ongoing uncertainty resulting from the coronavirus,” the league announced in a statement on Thursday.
The Winter Classic was scheduled to be played at Target Field in Minneapolis on New Year’s Day, featuring the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. The Florida Panthers were scheduled to host All-Star Weekend on Jan. 29-30. The league said it intends to return to both Minnesota and Florida for the signature events “in the near future.”
“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,” NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer said in a statement. “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.”
The NHL said it is still planning to begin the 2020-21 season on or around Jan. 1. NHL general managers have a meeting scheduled for Friday where several details are supposed to be sorted out — including whether the seven teams that did not make the NHL’s extended 24-team postseason this summer can get extra training camp time and preseason games. There is still no date for when training camps will open.
The NHL told teams they could open their training facilities for voluntary workouts on Oct. 15. However, there is a 19-page document of protocols that takes into account social distancing as well as increased health and safety measures. A team needs notice from at least five players before reopening its facilities for voluntary workouts, and a maximum of 12 players can be on the ice at the same time.
Players and staffers who participate in voluntary offseason workouts must produce a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival and will be tested at least twice weekly. Anyone who has had COVID-19 must also undergo a cardiac screening.
The 2021 Winter Classic was going to be the NHL’s 31st outdoor game and second for the Wild. In 2016, Minnesota hosted a Stadium Series matchup against the Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The Panthers, meanwhile, were getting ready to host their second All-Star Weekend, having previously hosted during the 2002-03 season.