We are getting closer to a plan for the start of the 2021 season in the National Hockey League with its target date of January still circled on the calendar.
Many details have been reported by TSN’s Pierre LeBrun after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman indicated the league is exploring the idea of temporary realignment in 2020-21, with an all-Canadian division in the mix. The league is now working closely with its Players’ Association in order to get a plan together for temporary hubs where teams would play a fixed number of games in the same location and then return home for a period of time before resuming action. On top of that, they need to agree on a number of contests to play throughout the calendar as a reduction from the usual 82-game schedule is on the table as well.
On Thursday night, LeBrun’s colleague Frank Seravalli added that the NHL is considering using a schedule rule from the Major League of Baseball. The senior hockey writer explains that the NHL could step away from the concept of hubs and allow teams to play their home games in their respective arena, leaving them the option of welcoming fans or not, depending on what’s happening with COVID and the rules set up by local authorities. Seravalli indicates that the league could adopt a schedule similar to that of the MLB where we would see two teams face off three times in four days in mini series, in order to reduce travelling as much as possible. With the schedule likely be modeled on the 2020 MLB season in which travel was limited through geographical play, we could see for example a baseball-like series, with, the New York Rangers going to Boston for three games against the Bruins in a five-day period.
A lot of talk still needs to happen to get the complete setup for the upcoming season, however, these are major strides to get to a starting date and a schedule for the 2021 campaign and its Stanley Cup playoffs.