It appears there will be a 2020-21 National Hockey League season after all.
After a lengthy financial stalemate and doubt surrounding the national surge of COVID-19, the league and its Players’ Association agreed to keep its financials relatively unchanged, and now move into the planning phase of a shortened regular season beginning January 13, 2021.
The defending Western Conference Champion Dallas Stars will defend their title in an abbreviated 52 or 56-game schedule, according to ESPN. It also must be approved by the NHL’s board of governors and the NHLPA’s executive board.
Another point of contention in the process is whether or not the league will help owners with cash flow. Players have already agreed to delay 10% of their compensation in an effort to wean financial losses for franchises.
The plan will likely also include temporary divisional realignment, schedules and coronavirus protocols. The proposed division realignments, leaked Wednesday, especially made waves around the league.
According to ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, the league would shift to four new divisions for the season, listed below:
From today's column on ESPN+, this is what I'm hearing for potential divisions for the NHL 2020-21 season: https://t.co/RCLTYW6NZ2 pic.twitter.com/9dEuj1TUCx
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) November 19, 2020
The most significant development involves the rumored Canadian division, which would feature all seven NHL franchises based North of the border after the country’s continued restrictions on traveling to-and-from the United States. Instead of taking a page out of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors’ book, who will play in Tampa, Florida this season, there will be no international travel- at least at the beginning of the season.
There’s no word as to whether or not the league would abandon its conference structure for the coming season. Columbus, Detroit, Florida, Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay all mix with current Western Conference teams in the realigned Central Division- which no longer features the Stars.
Though Dallas wouldn’t be paired with recent rivals like Chicago, St. Louis in Nashville, it would reunite with former Pacific Division foes Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose. Aside from Vegas and Colorado- who were expected to compete for what would’ve been the Western Conference title this season, Dallas is at a competitive advantage. The Ducks, Sharks, and Kings all missed the playoffs by significant margins a year ago.
It will certainly be interesting to monitor the changes in the league’s plan as the Stanley Cup Finalists and the rest of the league await the start of an unprecedented year.
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