By @StefanKubus –
It’s been a long time coming in Detroit, but hockey is officially back.
The NHL and NHLPA announced an agreement Sunday afternoon that will see a 56-game season beginning January 13 and concluding May 8.
Formal training camps will begin on Jan. 3, and there will be no pre-season games. The Red Wings and six other teams that did not participate in the 2020 Return to Play postseason will be permitted to open their training camps as early as Dec. 31.
The divisions, which can be seen below, will look dramatically different given the need to cut back on travel and keep player safety at the forefront. That includes an all-Canadian grouping labeled the North Division.
Per the NHL.com release, “Games will be within realigned divisions only, including a division of the seven teams based in Canada. In reaching agreement on the format for the 2020-21 season, the NHL and NHLPA determined that the ongoing closure of the U.S.-Canada border required realignment and the NHL and the players also sought to minimize team travel as much as possible by shifting to exclusively intradivisional play.”
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 20, 2020
The Stanley Cup Playoffs will feature a 16-team format, where the top four teams in each division qualify for the postseason, which is expected to conclude around mid-July with the hopes of returning to a “normal” hockey calendar for the 2021-22 season. Following intradivisional play in the first two rounds (No. 1 vs. No. 4; No. 2 vs. No. 3), the four teams that advance to the semifinal round would then be seeded by their regular season points total.
The NHL and NHLPA are expected to release the Health and Safety Protocols, transition rules, 2021 schedule and a finalized calendar of critical dates in the coming days. Below is a tentative, reported look at the aforementioned calendar:
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) December 20, 2020