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NHL to start 56-game 2020/21 season on 13th January

League confirms all-Canadian division as teams are realigned in four groups.

21 December 2020 Sam Carp

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  • Teams will start season in empty home arenas, although league prepared to return to neutral sites
  • Regular season to run until 8th May, with Stanley Cup Playoffs wrapping up in mid-July
  • NHL hopes 2020/21 timetable will allow it to return to normal calendar in October

The 2020/21 National Hockey League (NHL) season will start on 13th January after the league and its players agreed to a truncated 56-game regular season.

The NHL also confirmed that its 31 teams will be realigned in four new divisions for the coming season, including a North group comprising the league’s seven Canadian franchises, in order to minimise travel and the potential for Covid-19 to disrupt the season.

Teams will play games exclusively against other franchises in their division, with the regular season set to run until 8th May. The top four teams from each group will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which will take place in their traditional best-of-seven, four-round format and conclude around mid-July.

The current plan is for teams to compete in their home arenas with the understanding that venues will not be able to host fans ‘at least in the initial part of the season’. The NHL also said it would be prepared to play games in one or more neutral site if necessary, as it did to complete the 2020/21 campaign in bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto.

The NHL hopes that the timetable for the upcoming campaign will allow it to return to a normal ice hockey calendar for the 2021/22 season, which would mean getting underway in October.

“While we are well aware of the challenges ahead, as was the case last spring and summer, we are continuing to prioritise the health and safety of our participants and the communities in which we live and play,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. “And, as was the case last spring and summer, I thank the NHLPA, particularly executive director Don Fehr, for working cooperatively with us to get our league back on the ice.”

The NHL had initially set a tentative start date of 1st December, although that was later pushed back to 1st January before the league and its players settled on the new schedule.

Teams will return to formal training camps on 3rd January, although the seven teams that did not participate in the 2019/20 return to play will be able to open their training camps as early as 31st December.

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