- Emily Kaplan is ESPN’s national NHL reporter.
The NHL has postponed its international games in 2020, the league and players’ union announced on Friday.
“The NHLPA and the NHL remain committed to maintaining and growing our international presence,” the sides said in a joint statement. “We hope that our fans overseas understand the need to postpone the 2020 games, but we look forward to being back with them in 2021.”
The NHL’s 2019-20 season has been on pause for nearly two months because of the coronavirus pandemic, although the league is trying to find a way to resume play this summer. The uncertainty extends to the 2020-21 season; commissioner Gary Bettman said at the end of April that starting the 2020-21 season as late as December is on the table.
The Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators were scheduled to open their 2020-21 seasons against each other in Prague, Czech Republic. Both teams were going to complete their training camps in Germany and Switzerland, respectively, and had exhibition matches against local clubs on the slate. The Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets were due to play a pair of regular-season games at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland.
“We are disappointed by the postponement of our trip to Finland, but look forward to having the opportunity to play in front of Finland’s passionate hockey fans in the future,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement. Kekalainen, a native of Kuopio, Finland, is the league’s first European-born general manager.
The NHL was also aiming to schedule an event in China for the 2020-21 season, though in early March, deputy commissioner Bill Daly ruled that as “unlikely.”
“We haven’t announced anything,” Daly told ESPN in March. “But it is unlikely we will play games in China next season, in part because of this [health crisis].”
The NHL, which has been trying to establish a presence in China, played preseason games in China in 2017 and 2018 but missed this past fall because of logistical issues with booking arenas. While the NHL was optimistic about a return ahead of the 2020-21 season, Daly said the outbreak made it difficult to firm up plans.
Asked for other reasons, Daly said: “I’m not sure there would be any other reasons.”
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