It's Official! NHL and Players Finalize Agreement for a 56-Game Season in 2021
After much nervous anticipation, and even some doubt, hockey will return on January 13th.
The NHL and players association completed a deal Sunday to hold a 56-game regular season that would include playoffs lasting into July to award the Stanley Cup trophy.
The NHL's Board of Governors voted to approve the agreement, which had received the support of the NHL Players' Association executive board on Friday night.
The 2021 regular season is scheduled to last until May 8th. There will be a 16-team playoff to follow, which is typical for most seasons. It's the best attempt to get back to hockey's version of "normal."
“The National Hockey League looks forward to the opening of our 2020-21 season,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “While we are well aware of the challenges ahead, as was the case last spring and summer, we are continuing to prioritize the health and safety of our participants and the communities in which we live and play."
The most interesting alteration on the new season will be the divisional realignment. There will be four divisions — North, South, East and West. All games will be within them through the first two rounds of the playoffs in order to minimize travel and the potential for COVID-19 to disrupt the season.
As far as groupings – the North Division contains all the seven Canadian teams.
Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington, NY Islanders, and NY Rangers are in the East.
Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Nashville, and Tampa Bay are in the Central.
Arizona, Anaheim, Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota, St. Louis, San Jose, and Vegas are in the West.
The league is preparing for multiple scenarios, in case of unforeseen problems. This includes allowing for the possibility of playing games at neutral sites, if needed. As for Canadian teams and games, the final details on where those teams will play were still pending. Agreements with federal and provincial health officials are still being discussed. Nonetheless, this is all encouraging news.