Happy Holidays, hockey fans! We will have NHL hockey in 2021, praise the hockey Gods. The NHL and NHLPA have reached an agreement today (Sunday, December 20th) on a 56-game regular season, kicking off on January 13th and ending on May 8th. Here is everything we know (so far) about the upcoming season.
The NHL will be implementing a short 56-game season for 2020-21, in an attempt to get back to a regular schedule for the 2021-22 season. Important dates for the upcoming year, per Pierre LeBrun, goes as follows:
The Stanley Cup should conclude sometime in mid July.
2021, the year of NHL rivalries. The current COVID-19 pandemic has forced the league to limit travel between cities as much as possible, so Gary Bettman and his team had to get creative. After a few weeks of back and forth between team owners and the NHLPA, and after many rough drafts of league realignment, the NHL has finally come to a decision.
Teams in the new East, Central, and West divisions will play each other a total of 8 times this season, while the North Division (Canadian) will play each other 10 times, no interdivision play. That means that we will get to see Rangers vs. Islanders, Flyers vs. Penguins, Flames vs. Oilers, Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs, and Kings vs. Ducks EIGHT times this season! If you enjoy intense rivalries, you should be foaming at the mouth. That East Division might be the toughest, and it is looking very scary.
It is worth noting that there is a strong possibility that the North Division plays somewhere within the United States this season due to provincial and territorial travel restrictions within Canada. The official 2020-21 NHL schedule will be released in the coming days.
Stanley Cup Playoffs
The playoffs will also be affected by the division realignment. In this year's rendition of the always dramatic Stanley Cup Playoffs, we will be going back to a regular 16-team playoff format, the top four teams in each division will make up the first two rounds of the tournament. In each division, the one seed will play the four seed, and the two seed will play the three seed. Once we reach the semifinals, teams will be re-seeded by their regular season points total, with the one seed playing the four seed, and the two seed playing the three seed.
It is unclear if the NHL will implement another bubble come semifinals, but the league has stated that they are prepared to play at one or more "neutral sites" should it become necessary.
Time to celebrate, hockey fans! In a few short weeks, we'll be seeing our beloved teams back in action. How do you think your team will do in their new division? Let me know in the comments below!
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