The NHL"s return to play is officially a go. Top top Sunday afternoon, the organization made a share announcement through the players" union stating the it will certainly play a 56-game season beginning Jan. 13, 2021. Obviously, that leaves very small time to kick things right into gear and also this will certainly be far from a typical season, so friend may have some questions around how it"s every going come work. 

We don"t have all the answers simply yet -- the league is expected to reveal added details in the coming days -- yet let"s check out what we deserve to clear increase in the meantime.

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What"s the divisional alignment?

We"ve known for some time the the NHL would certainly be looking to temporarily shake increase the departments for this upcoming season. That realignment comes together a an approach of limiting travel and also ensuring that groups will not have to cross the joined States-Canada border during the pandemic. As component of the changes, one department will be made up entirely the the league"s Canadian teams.

Various alignment concepts were proposed, yet the NHL is moving forward with the adhering to four divisions for 2021:


North

East

Central

West

What is the schedule going to look like?

Every team will just play divisional gamings this season. Each team in the East, main and West will play every various other team in its department eight times, while the teams in the North division will play every other team in its department nine or 10 times.

In an initiative to limit travel and potential COVID-19 exposure, groups will likewise often pat several gamings in a row against a particular opponent. You have the right to find an ext info top top the NHL schedule here.

We additionally know some crucial scheduling dates, courtesy of TSN"s Pierre LeBrun: 

Start of the season: January 13Trade deadline: April 12End of continual season: may 8Last feasible day the playoffs: July 15Expansion draft: July 21NHL Draft: July 23-24Start of free agency: July 28

How will certainly the playoffs work?

The league will have actually a traditional 16-team, best-of-seven playoff layout this year, though it will certainly look a bit various thanks to the divisional realignment. The top four teams in each department will qualify because that the playoffs and be placed into divisional brackets for the first couple of rounds that the playoffs (No.1 seeds vs. No. 4 seed, No. 2 seeds vs. No. 3 seed).


The 4 teams that development to the Stanley Cup Semifinal (known as the Conference final in a normal year) will certainly be seeded through their regular season clues total, through the No. 1 vs. No. 4 seed and also No. 2 vs. No. 3. 

This layout means, in theory, this year"s Stanley Cup Final can feature two teams that commonly play in the very same conference in a timeless season.

Where will games be played?

While the NHL chosen to employ 2 hub urban (aka "bubble cities") for its return to play in 2020, the league will enable teams to play gamings in their home arenas during the upcoming season. The NHL will let individual groups decide if they want to allow fans in the arena, and also at least one team (the Dallas Stars) to plan on having minimal attendance. 


However, if neighborhood COVID-19 regulations protect against a team from play in their home arena, the NHL will administer a "neutral" website for games to take place. 

What about training camp and also preseason?

With much less than a month to prepare because that the start of the season, there won"t be a common preseason this year. Maintain camps will certainly officially open on January 3rd. (Teams the didn"t make the playoffs critical season will certainly be enabled to start December 31.) every team will certainly be allowed to have 36 skaters and an unlimited variety of goalies attending maintain camp.

There will certainly be no preseason exhibition gamings this year.

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What will the COVID-19 protocols look like?

Obviously, a large focus throughout the upcoming season will be limiting the influence of COVID-19. V that in mind, the league has established some brand-new protocols while playing outside of a bubble. 


The league will call for teams come disclose when players have actually tested optimistic for COVID-19 during the season. Groups will no much longer be enabled to usage the "unfit to play" designation that was in place throughout the return to play end the summerAny players who test positive should follow isolation guidelines created by their regional public wellness regulations. A player who tests positive must also be clearing by both a cardiologist and also team physician prior to returning come the iceAny players that have been in close call with a teammate the tests optimistic will be enabled to continue playing as lengthy as castle test negative and continue to be asymptomaticCoaches will certainly be forced to wear confront masks top top the bench Every player will acquire their own hotel room throughout road trips. Players and also staff will certainly not be enabled to eat at restaurants or go to bars/shops. Every meals will be served at the team hotel and also all transportation should be listed by the team

This post will continue to be updated as much more information becomes available.