The 2021 NHL season schedule has finally been released. This season, however, will be different than in the past. With the pandemic still a concern, the NHL has shortened their normal 82-game schedule to 56-games. The regular season is expected to begin Jan. 13.
In addition to this readjustment, all teams will be playing in realigned divisions to reduce travel across the country. Also, the 2021 All-Star Game will not be played this year, either.
Key Dates and COVID-19 Protocols
The following are key dates to look out for throughout the NHL season:
- Opening Night will be Jan. 13, 2021
- The 2021 All-Star Game has been canceled because of the changes to the NHL schedule
- The trade deadline for all teams will be April 12
- The regular season will officially end May 8
- The upcoming 2021 playoffs are expected to begin three days later, on May 11.
The professional hockey league has also developed COVID-19 guidelines that each NHL team will be required to follow in order to ensure the safety of everyone. For example anyone who tests positive for the virus must be quarantined and follow the necessary safety protocols like washing hands, social distancing and wearing a face mask.
There are many other rules that each time must follow, including travelling, wearing face coverings, close contact with others, testing, and more.
Because of the rearrangement of the schedule, there will be no preseason games played this year. The way each time will play against other teams in their new division will include only divisional games. For instance, the Nashville Predators will play back-to-back matchups and play against the same time quite frequently. The Preds will face off against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 14. In this case, the Preds will play a total of three games in just four nights against two teams–the Blue Jackets and the Carolina Hurricanes.
With the new schedule, the NHL teams will compete in consecutive games against the same opponents to limit how much travel the teams will need to do.
The playoffs will be organized into a 16-team, best-of-seven format. This will include four rounds. Four teams from each division will be in the playoffs. The Stanley Cup will be given to the winner of the Stanley Cup Finals matchups. Fans should expect this sometime in mid-July.
Stay tuned for more information about the upcoming NHL season and any changes should they occur.