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The National Hockey League (NHL) is set to return on January 13 for a 56-game 2021 season, including a new Canadian division. (Photo : Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
We are about to see some action on the ice next month.
The National Hockey League (NHL) officially announced that they would return for the new season, scheduled to start on January 13.
Together with the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA), the NHL has agreed that the 2021 season will have a 56-game regular season format. It will include the league’s 16- team playoff to be held on May 8 en route to the Stanley Cup in July.
“The National Hockey League looks forward to the opening of our 2020-21 season, especially since the return to play in 2019-20 was so successful in crowning a Stanley Cup champion,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stated.
The free agency is slated for July 28.
The said adjustment was acknowledged in line with the COVID-19 pandemic protocols.
The future hockey games in the upcoming season will likely be a crucial race for the 31 teams. It sees to it that every game is a deciding match for each squad. With the pandemic still hitting the cities, the players will compete after passing necessary examinations.
In just 116 days, the whole season will be compressed into 56 games. Every game is expected to be held every two days to mitigate the possible exposure while traveling lightly for COVID-19 precautions.
In the agreement, the season will roll in 31 arenas. The possibility of holding a game without fans is high to avoid further public engagements.
“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,” Bettman said.
Despite the set plans, the NHL is still looking for ways to establish the extended division in Canada.
The problem with the arrangement is the concern of the health authorities. The health officials in the province have not yet signed the letter for approval of the All-Canadian division extension, in line with the protocol.
It might be a difficult challenge for the officials to permit the hockey games in the country. Given that Canada’s COVID-19 cases are rising daily, with current deaths reaching 14,228 as of December 20.
To continue the agreement, the NHL and the NHLPA will conduct a group call on Saturday with the province’s health authorities. Possible meeting outcomes will be released after, but most likely, the verdict of allowing the NHL to operate will be left hanging for a moment.
The NHL needs to brace for the unexpected, and that is if the health authorities will not approve their request. Should that happen, the seven Canadian teams will be merged into a hybrid hub in Edmonton, where they can stay there for the whole season.
In a press release last Sunday, NHL said that most arenas would not be opened for the fans. The association continued that it still depends on the existing updates on the border, as the Canadian border remains closed to visitors.
In addition, the NHL declared that they are ready to launch games on neutral grounds per division if necessary.
The North American regions assigned the new division lineup to make the North American rivalry more exciting. The 24 teams from the United States will deal with the All-Canadian division teams eight times this upcoming season.
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