The National Hockey League (NHL) and its players’ union reached an agreement to play a shortened season starting in mid-January, officials announced on Sunday.
The NHL and the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) announced its 2020-2021 season will consist of 56 games starting on Jan. 13, according to a joint press release. The regular season will end on May 8 before the Stanley Cup playoffs in which 16 teams will face off until mid-July.
The league hopes to start a regular hockey season for the 2021-22 season, beginning in October and lasting until June.
The NHL and NHLPA plan to release their health and safety protocols, rules and important dates regarding this season in the next few days. The league noted that it plans to be “flexible and adaptable” in its planning to follow local and national health guidelines.
“While we are well aware of the challenges ahead, as was the case last spring and summer, we are continuing to prioritize the health and safety of our participants and the communities in which we live and play,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
For this season, the NHL is realigning its teams to four divisions, North, Central, East and West, in response to the Canada-U.S. border remaining closed because of the pandemic and to reduce team travel. Teams will only play other teams within their division during the regular season.
Official training camps will start after the New Year on Jan. 3, and no preseason games are scheduled this year.
“During these troubled times, we hope that NHL games will provide fans with some much needed entertainment as the players return to the ice,” Don Fehr, the NHLPA executive director, said in a statement.
For its 2019-20 season, the NHL suspended playing from March for almost five months because of the pandemic.