NWHL targeting January 2021 for return, planning full season

The NWHL is targeting January 2021 to return to play in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Gary Wiepert/AP)

The National Women’s Hockey League is targeting January 2021 to return to play as the world continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The league says it plans to complete a full 20-game season and the Isobel Cup Playoffs by the end of March and possibly hold an all-star game after the playoffs are completed.

The timeline announced Wednesday was developed by a COVID-19 Safety Committee that was formed in April. The committee includes members from the league, NWHL Players’ Association and is led by Dr. Andrew Feldman and Dr. Guillem Gonzalez-Lomas from NYU Langone Health.

“The Safety Committee has and will continue to prioritize NWHL player, staff, fan, and media safety above all else while adapting to the ever-changing COVID-19 situation,” said Dr. Gonzalez-Lomas said in a statement. “We are eager to meet the challenge ahead and do our utmost to safely return the athletes to the sport they love.”

Before games resume in January, the NWHL will begin allowing optional on-ice practices and off-ice training for its six teams in September. These optional sessions are scheduled to start on Sept. 21 and more formal practices will begin on Oct. 19.

“Throughout, NWHL teams will strictly adhere to the protocols established by infectious disease experts, the NWHL medical team and community officials in each market,” a statement from the league reads.

“The NWHLPA is well-represented on the league’s COVID-19 committee,” NWHL Players’ Association executive director Anya Packer said in a statement. “The PA has been included in all discussions in regards to player safety and league scheduling, and co-authored the overall return-to-play protocol. We feel our voices have been heard thus far and we will continue to ensure that the safety and well-being of the players is at the forefront of all discussions and formal protocols.”

The NWHL says it will have more announcements regarding in-season medical protocols, ticket availability and arena capacity for fans closer to the start of the season.

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