Say it ain't so!
The Colorado Avalanche hockey club announced it will start its season next month before an empty arena in compliance with state and local COVID-19 guidelines. In a tweet, the club said it will continue to work with authorities to navigate a safe return to hosting fans at Ball Arena (formerly the Pepsi Center) and that ticket-holders would be notified directly of any changes in its ability to host fans.
The Avs are set to begin training camp on January 3 before launching a 56-game season on January 13. The shortened season is a result of an agreement between the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) and the National Hockey League. According to the agreement, the regular season will conclude on May 8 followed by 16-team playoffs ending in mid-July. The NHL and NHLPA anticipate a return to a normal schedule for the 2021-2022 season beginning in October.
An ongoing closure of the U.S.-Canada border and the desire to minimize team travel necessitated a realignment of the league and a shift to exclusively intradivisional play. All seven Canadian teams are grouped in the North Division, while the remaining 24 U.S. teams are split among three divisions. The Avalanche will play in the West Division with Anaheim, Arizona, Los Angeles, Minnesota, San Jose, St. Louis, and Vegas.
Games will be played in the home arenas of participating teams with the understanding that most arenas will not be able to host fans at least at the beginning of the season, according to the agreement. The league is also prepared to move games to neutral-site venues for each division if necessary.
There will be no preseason games, the NHL said.