The NHL and NHL Players’ Association have reached a tentative agreement to play a 56-game regular season starting Jan. 13, 2021.
The agreement, confirmed by NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, is pending a vote by the NHL Board of Governors and the NHLPA.
The 2020-21 season has been delayed due to continuing concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
“We are focused on starting at some point hopefully in mid-January,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday. “… It is clear that we will not be playing an 82-game schedule for the regular season, which we normally do, but we’re going to try and play as many games as possible.”
Games will be within realigned divisions only, including a division of the seven teams based in Canada.
The NHL and NHLPA have had to adjust to government regulations at all levels, from restrictions at the Canada-United States border to local limits on gatherings, and the coronavirus situation in each of the markets for the 31 NHL teams. The agreement includes health and safety protocols.
The last game of last season was played Sept. 28, when the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars 2-0 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
“The biggest challenge is making sure that our players and supporting personnel are safe and healthy and making sure that we’re not doing anything that puts the communities in which we’re playing at risk either in terms of spreading COVID or taking medical resources, whether it’s testing or vaccinations,” Commissioner Bettman said.
“We understand what is vitally important to each community and to the health and welfare of each community, and we don’t want to do anything that would interfere with that. But everything that we’re doing and working on with the Players’ Association starts with keeping the players and the communities in which we play safe and healthy.”