NHL postpones 2021 Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend because of coronavirus concerns

Helene Elliott
·2 min read
Dallas Stars fans watch play during the second period of the NHL Winter Classic hockey game between the Dallas Stars and the Nashville Predators at the Cotton Bowl, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020, in Dallas. Dallas won 4-2. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)
Fans watch the NHL Winter Classic game between the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators on Jan. 1 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. (Jeffrey McWhorter / Associated Press)

The NHL has postponed the 2021 edition of two of its marquee events, the Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend, citing “ongoing uncertainty resulting from the coronavirus.” The COVID-19 pandemic led the league to cut short the 2019-20 regular season and to resume play by conducting the Stanley Cup playoffs during the summer months in bubbles created in Edmonton and Toronto with no fans in attendance.  

The next Winter Classic was scheduled to match the Minnesota Wild against the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 1, 2021, at Target Field in Minneapolis. The All-Star Weekend had been planned for Jan 29-30 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. In a statement released Thursday, the league said it intends to hold those events in Minnesota and Florida “in the near future,” but did not specify dates.  

The league’s statement also said postponing those two events doesn’t affect a previous declaration it had made with the NHL Players’ Assn. that they are targeting the 2020-21 season to begin on or around Jan. 1. Commissioner Gary Bettman has said he hoped the league will be able to stage a full season in 2020-21, but a late start would extend an 82-game schedule for each team and the playoffs into the summer months again.  

It remains unclear whether fans will be allowed to attend NHL games next season in limited numbers or at all. That factored into the postponement of the Winter Classic and All-Star Weekend, which typically feature community and fan-friendly events.  

“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,” Steve Mayer, the NHL's senior executive vice president and chief content officer, said in the 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.”  

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.