The long awaited 2020-2021 NHL season will finally start on January 13th, but everything looks drastically different. Teams that did not qualify for the 2020 Playoffs (Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Detroit, Buffalo, New Jersey, and Ottawa) will be allowed to open training camps on December 31st. The rest will have to wait until January 3rd. This leaves only ten days before the season begins with no preseason.
The new format is incredibly different. The 56-game schedule is the obvious difference, 26 fewer than usual. The modified divisions will hopefully help contain the spread of COVID-19.
The North Division consists of all the Canadian teams: Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Ottawa. The East Division has both New York teams, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, Boston, and Buffalo. The Central Division has Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Tampa, Carolina, Nashville, and Columbus. Finally, the West Division has Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Vegas, and St. Louis.
Each team will play the teams in their division eight times, and the top four in each division will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The first two rounds will be intradivisional, and the first seed will play the fourth, and the second will play the third. After that, the final four teams will be re-seeded based on their points from the regular season.
No Fans Yet
Fans will have to wait to see their teams in person, unfortunately. The timeline for allowing people in the stands also varies based on location. It will be harder to bring fans into the arenas in New York, for example. COVID-19 is more widespread because of the condensed area, but the NHL hopes this will change as the season progresses.
The NHL predicts the playoffs will start on May 11th and run until July 9th. That seems as though it could be a world away, however. This season will be a unique one, but perhaps it will bring the hockey community together in a way it has never been brought together before.