NHL, NHLPA Announce Agreement To Play 56-Game Regular Season

Photo: Sportsnet

The NHL and players’ association have both agreed to play a 56-game regular season in  2020-21 season protocols with realigned divisions, including an all-Canadian division due to the United States-Canada border closure.

A schedule for the season could be released shortly.

Here are the details of the agreement:

  • Opt-Out
    • players can opt-out of the tournament for any reason and will not be penalized
    • deadline to do so for the seven teams that did not participate in the NHL’s return-to-play format last summer (Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, and Detroit Red Wings) – Thursday, December 23
    • deadline to do so for the 24 that did – Sunday, December 27
  • Attendance
    • With respect to fans attending games, fans will be allowed in markets that permit it. Per the NHL/NHLPA release, they understand “that most arenas will not, at least in the initial part of the season, be able to host fans.”
  • Key Dates
    • Wednesday, December 30 – training camps open for seven teams
    • Sunday, January 3 –  training camps open for 24
    • Wednesday, January 13 – first day of 2020-21 regular season
    • Thursday, February 11 – last day for unsigned free agents to sign and participate in the 2020-21 season
    • Friday, March 12 – first day players on one-year contracts can sign extensions
    • Monday, April 12 – Trade Deadline at 3 PM ET
    • Saturday, May 8 – last day of regular season
    • Saturday, July 17 – teams submit protection lists fort NHL Expansion Draft
    • Wednesday, July 21 – 2021 NHL Expansion Draft
    • Friday, July 23-Saturday, July 24 – 2021 NHL Draft
    • Wednesday, July 28 – NHL Free Agency opens
  • Training Camp
    • the seven teams that did not participate in the NHL’s return-to-play format will be allowed to open training camps on Wednesday, December 30
    • the 24 that did will be allowed to open training camps on Sunday, January 3
  • Roster Size
    • Teams will be allowed to carry four-to-six extra players
    • teams will be required to carry three goalies
  • Salary Prorations
    • There will be no extra proration of salaries or exhibition games – they previously agreed to 10% last summer
  • Divisional Realignment
    • North: Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets
    • East: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals
    • Central: Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning
    • Pacific: Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights

  • Stanley Cup Playoff Format
    • 1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3 in each division for first-round
    • Conference Finals matchups will be seeded based on regular-season points

NHL Release

The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) and National Hockey League (NHL) announced today an agreement to play a 2020-21 regular-season schedule of 56 games beginning Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, and concluding on May 8. As part of the agreement, the Stanley Cup Playoffs would feature 16 teams in the traditional best-of-seven, four-round format and conclude around mid-July with the plan of returning to a “normal” hockey calendar for the 2021-22 season (regular season beginning in October). The NHL and NHLPA will release the Health and Safety Protocols, transition rules and critical dates calendar as well as the 2020-21 schedule in the coming days.

Given the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHLPA and the NHL intend to be flexible and adaptable in their approach during the coming weeks to ensure compliance with directives from both local and national governmental and health authorities focusing on the health and safety of the players, other game-related personnel and the communities in which we play. The priority will continue to be focused on the health and safety of our fans and Players and Club, League, NHLPA and arena personnel.

“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 said. “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. 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 Players are pleased to have finalized agreements for the upcoming season, which will be unique but also very exciting for the fans and Players alike,” said Don Fehr, NHLPA Executive Director. “During these troubled times, we hope that NHL games will provide fans with some much needed entertainment as the players return to the ice.”

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 League and the Players also sought to minimize team travel as much as possible by shifting to exclusively intradivisional play. It is the current plan to play games in the home arenas of participating teams while understanding that most arenas will not, at least in the initial part of the season, be able to host fans. However, depending on prevailing conditions both in local markets and across North America, the League will be prepared to play games in one or more “neutral site” venues per division should it become necessary.

Each team in the East, Central and West divisions will play every other team in its division eight times while each team in the North Division will play every other team in its division nine or 10 times.

The top four teams in each division will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with intradivisional play in the first two rounds (#1 vs. #4; #2 vs. #3). The four teams that advance to the Semifinal Round would be seeded by their regular season points total, with the No. 1 seed playing the No. 4 seed in one series and the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds meeting in the other.

Formal training camps will begin on Jan. 3. There will be no pre-season games. The seven teams that did not participate in the 2019-20 Return to Play will be permitted to open their training camps as early as Dec. 31.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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