NHL set to return Jan. 13 with 56-game schedule, realigned divisions
Detroit — The NHL is a bit closer to actually getting on the ice.
On Sunday, the NHL Board of Governors approved the proposed agreement between the league and the NHL Players' Association.
So, the path is basically cleared for a 56-game regular season to begin on Jan. 13. But there is one more obstacle.
The NHL’s seven Canadian teams, in what will be an all-Canadian division under the proposed one-year realignment, are still to get clearance from the five provinces to go ahead and play in their own buildings.
If they cannot, the NHL will either go to a hub-city format, with those seven teams staying and playing likely in Edmonton, or possibly disperse the seven teams to cities in the United States (which would require further realignment).
What does all this mean from the Red Wings’ perspective?
As one of the seven teams that didn’t quality for the Return To Play last summer, they’d get a few extra days of training camp beginning on Dec. 31 with the other non-playoff teams (the other 24 teams would begin Jan. 3).
The Red Wings will be housed in the Central Division along with Columbus, Carolina, Chicago, Nashville, Tampa, Florida and Dallas.
All 56 games will be played within the division, and the top four teams in the division advance to the playoffs, again all within the division, with the regular season scheduled to end May 8.
The Stanley Cup is expected to be awarded in mid-July, with a return to a “normal” hockey calendar for the 2021-22 season beginning in early October.
“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,” commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
“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.”
Critical dates are expected to be announced in the coming days, but reportedly the trade deadline is expected to be April 12, the expansion draft stocking Seattle’s roster is July 21, the NHL Entry Draft is July 23-24, and unrestricted free agency beginning on July 28.