It’s official. On Sunday, the NHL formally announced its 2020-2021 season will commence January 13 of 2021.
“The National Hockey League looks forward to the opening of our 2020-2021 season, especially since the Return to Play in 2019-2020 was so successful in crowning a Stanley Cup champion,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “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. And, as was the case last spring and summer, I thank the NHLPA, particularly Executive Director Don Fehr, for working cooperatively with us to get our league back on the ice.”
A tentative agreement was reported over the weekend, with ratification on terms following approval from the NHL’s Board of Governors. That was reported Sunday.
So, here’s what we know.
The season will begin on January 13, 2021. There will be no preseason games. The season is expected to end on May 8, 2021.
Teams can begin training camp on January 3, 2021. The seven teams that did not make the bubble last season can begin training camp as early as December 31, 2020.
Teams will play within a divisional realignment, as was broadly reported. There are four divisions. Each team will play a 56-game schedule and will only face teams in their own divisions.
The top four teams in each division will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The first two rounds of the playoffs will be interdivisional, with the first-place club playing the fourth-place club and the second-place club playing the third-place club in the first round. The second round will be seeded by regular-season points totals.
The divisions are as follows:
- East Division – Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals
- Central Division – Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, and Tampa Bay Lightning
- West Division – Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, and Vegas Golden Knights
- North Division – Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, and Montreal Canadiens
Each team in the East, Central, and West Divisions will play every other team eight times, while each team in the North Division will play every other team nine or 10 times.
The NHL’s current plan is to play games in home arenas for each team, without fans in attendance at least at first. There are preparations to move games to a neutral site in case something comes up.
“The players are pleased to have finalized agreements for the upcoming season, which will be unique but also very exciting for the fans and players alike,” said NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr. “During these troubled times, we hope that NHL games will provide fans with some much-needed entertainment as the players return to the ice.”
Image: Canadian Press/Frank Gunn