The NHL and NHL Players’ Association announced on Sunday an agreement to play a 56-game regular season beginning Jan. 13, 2021. The start of the season had been delayed due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
Here are key questions and answers about the agreement for the 2020-21 season:
When will training camps open?
The seven teams that did not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season (Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks) will be permitted to open training camps Dec. 31. The 24 teams that participated in the playoffs will begin training camps Jan. 3.
Will there be preseason games?
No. Regular-season games will begin Jan. 13 immediately following training camp.
When will the season end?
The regular season is scheduled to end May 8. The playoffs, featuring the traditional four-round, best-of-7 format, are expected to end in mid-July with the plan of returning to a normal hockey calendar for the 2021-22 season.
When will the schedule and health and safety protocols be announced?
The NHL and NHLPA plan to announce the 2020-21 schedule, health and safety protocols, transition rules and critical dates calendar in the coming days.
Because of the unpredictability of the pandemic, the NHL and NHLPA will be flexible with their approach in the coming weeks to comply with local and national governmental and health authorities and ensure the safety of the players, other game-related personnel and the communities where the League plays.
Where will the games be played, and will fans be permitted to attend?
The tentative plan is for teams to play games in their home arenas with the understanding that most arenas will not be permitted to admit fans, at least initially. Depending on the conditions in local markets and across North America, the League is prepared to play games at one or more neutral sites per division if necessary.
Will there be temporary realignment?
Yes. For the 2020-21 season, the teams will be realigned into four new divisions and play will be limited to intradivisional games because of travel restrictions in the United States and Canada.
The North Division will include the seven teams based in Canada: Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets.
The 24 teams based in the United States will be divided into three divisions of eight teams.
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.
Each team in the East, Central and West divisions will play every other team in its division eight times, and each team in the North Division will play every other team in its division nine or 10 times.
What will be the playoff format be?
The top four teams in each division will qualify for the playoffs. The first two rounds of the playoffs will be intradivisional, with the first-place team facing the fourth-place team and the second-place team playing the third-place team in the first round.
The four teams that advance to the semifinal round will be seeded by their point total in the regular season, with the No. 1 seed playing the No. 4 seed in one series and the No. 2 seed facing the No. 3 seed in the other.