(Associated Press) – Hockey is set to return on January 13 after the NHL and the players completed a deal on Sunday to hold a 56-game season that would include the playoffs that last until July to award the Stanley Cup.
The league’s board of governors voted to approve the agreement backed by the NHL Players’ Union Executive Board Friday night. The regular season is set to run through May 8 with 16 teams following.
“It would be exciting to come back again,” said San Jose General Manager Doug Wilson in a video call. “It was a challenging year and journey.”
The season will be very unusual in at least one respect: There will be four divisions – North, South, East and West – and all games will be within them during the first two rounds of the qualifiers to reduce travel and the potential for the spread of the Coronavirus. To disable the season. The Northern Division contains only the seven Canadian teams.
“It is the current plan to play matches in the local arenas for the participating teams, with the understanding that most arenas will not be able, at least in the first part of the season, to host fans,” the NHL said.
The league allows games to be played in neutral locations if needed. Final details about where the Canadian teams would play were still pending until agreements were reached with federal and provincial health officials.
However, the obstacles will not be sufficient to prevent the season from starting without a quarantine bubble.
“The National Hockey League looks forward to the opening of the 2020-2021 season,” Commissioner Gary Bateman said in a statement. “While we are well aware of the challenges that lie ahead, as was the case this past spring and summer, we continue to prioritize the health and safety of our participants and the communities in which we live and play.”
The NHL completed last season in bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, with players, coaches and staff isolated from the general public and virus testing daily.
“The players are excited to finalize the agreements for the upcoming season, which will be unique but also very exciting,” said NHLPA CEO Don Fehr. “During these troubled times, we hope the NHL matches provide fans with some much-needed entertainment as players return to the ice.”
Most of the league will open a training camp on January 3. The seven teams that did not participate in last season’s qualifiers can begin as soon as December 31st. There will be no exhibition matches before playing for real.
Crucial dates, such as the deadline for the trade and the possible last day for the end of the Stanley Cup Final, and the full schedule are expected to be released in the coming days. In the three US divisions, the teams will play eight times against each other.
“It’s not easy,” said Wilson, who will set up a shark training camp in Scottsdale, Arizona, due to sports restrictions in Santa Clara County, California. I think the intricacies of this far outweigh what they had to do last year upon reboot because now you are traveling across the states and you are going to different cities and different things. But the way it ended up with the divisions, on paper makes sense to me. “
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