COVID-19 will dictate the start of the season.
Initially the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League had targeted December 1st for the start of the 2020-2021 season. That is not happening. The NHL has used January 1st as its big in-season celebration with the Winter Classic which is an outdoor game played in a baseball or football stadium. The NBA’s unofficial season opener is Christmas Day, December 25th some seven weeks after the November 1st or thereabouts opening games. That probably won’t happen. Both the NBA and NHL successfully got their 2019-2020 playoffs played with COVID-19 not a problem. Both leagues wrapped their players in a bubble. The United States has had a dismal response in containing the COVID-19 illness. Canada was doing well but Ontario seems to have been going backwards and Toronto is seeing a big spike in COVID-19 cases.
It is unlikely that most franchises could have customers in the buildings even in January or February. There could be a vaccine or two available by the end of the year but would athletes, coaches, general managers, team training staffs, equipment people then arena workers get the shot? Sports is not an essential business. It is entertainment no more important than a movie or a Broadway play or television. People connected with sports teams should not be among the first to get a vaccine. It does not appear at this point that National Basketball Association owners and National Hockey League owners are ready to build bubbles to get games in without fans. It appears NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman followed science and dodged the COVID-19 bullet during the playoffs. But the NHL’s biggest star, Connor McDavid, has tested positive for COVID-19. It is the off season so McDavid is not missed. One thing, the NBA season will run into the 2021 Tokyo Olympics meaning NBA players won’t be in Japan.