Late December is normally a slow news cycle, now even more so in the COVID era. This past Sunday the 20th of December 2020 changed that just a bit. Shortly after I had finished filming “Aloha Commentary” for the Bluenotes Podcast, my phone lit up.
The NHL and the NHLPA decided to give an early Christmas present to their fans. The NHL announced the league and players’ association had reached an agreement on a COVID shorten and modified 56-game season.
The league would be realigned for just this year to accommodate travel restrictions. The four divisions would be split into the North, East, Central, and West and will begin play on January 13th. All teams will be in training camp by Jan 3rd. The teams that did not qualify for the 2020 tournament can start on Dec 31st.
The North will consist of the 7 teams from Canada. The Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, and Winnipeg Jets will see each other either nine or ten times.
The East will be occupied by the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals.
The Central will see the Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, and defending champions Tampa Bay Lightning battle it out.
While the West will be filled out with the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, and Vegas Golden Knights.
The three American division teams will also play in-division only. Each opponent will be scheduled eight times.
The Playoffs will start in May, with the season-ending May 8th. The league will utilize an old-time format. The top four teams from each division will qualify and will play a best of seven #1 vs #4, #2 vs #3. Each division will crown a champion. Each champion will be reseeded by regular-season points and play the same style in the Cup semi and Finals.
Am I fricking excited????
“This is the Battle of Alberta we have waited 3 decades for!!!!!”
Just the other day Rick Zombo in an interview on the BlueNote Fan Report commented “You hated each other.” Seeing the same teams 8 times and then again in a seven-game series in the first two rounds of the play-offs, “It was a powder-keg.”
The NHL will give fans of the fastest game on ice a thrill a minute. I could go on and on about all the storylines I see developing. Chicago and Detroit both in a rebuilding year. Toronto and Montreal need I say any more. Vegas looking to get their ring. The beast in the East, with 5 teams being Stanley Cup contenders.
Fans in St. Louis, Minnesota, and Dallas may be a little confused about the one-off realignment. St. Louis and Dallas have been in the same division since 1967-68 when Dallas was the North Stars.
Fans of both the Wild and Blues are concerned with late start times. Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Mid-West and KFNS, tweeted out “League Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says they are aware of the concern #stlblues fans may have regarding late start times out West. He says the league will make efforts to minimize the issue.”
I will take a wait and see that approach.
Just thinking about writing the divisional previews has me gitty. Eight games pitting the Penguins against the Flyers. Eight battles of New York. Boston against the East? Oh, Canada!!!! This season is going to be fun and nerve-racking all at the same time.
For me, the Blues and the Avalance facing each other in-home and homes. Fighting with the ex-captain Alex Pietrangelo over and over again. Getting to Beat up on the Sharks, Kings, and Ducks.
Hockey is back BABYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!
Guy “Hawaii Blues Fan” Bensing