Expect lots of changes to the 2021/22 NHL season as regulations and restrictions on travel present new challenges to the league commissioner and team owners. Here’s what we know so far about the upcoming NHL season and what to expect.
Regarding the Coronavirus
While sports leagues across the world are underway, NHL fans patiently wait for the start of a new season. Despite the worldwide disruption due to the coronavirus outbreak, the league is expected to start on Jan. 1.
According to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daley “The goal is still to start as early as Jan. 1 and to play a full season. Having said that, we also recognize, depending on a host of different things, that it could take a different form and we might not be playing a full season, we might not be playing into the summer, we might not be starting on Jan. 1. So there’s still a lot of uncertainty.”
The NHL will continue to follow the science and government guidelines concerning travel, gatherings of people and other issues relating to the virus. A spike in cases could potentially impact the season, but for now, plans are being made to ensure that GMs have a schedule to follow when the league starts in January. For now, it’s unknown whether fans will be allowed to attend games. While teams depend on revenue from ticket sales in some cases, this issue is still very much up in the air, and we’ll know more as the league start date approaches.
Due to the Coronavirus and restrictions on travel, teams will most likely be moved into new divisions to reduce travel and keep players within separate bubbles. Due to the border being closed between Canada and the United States, it’s looking increasingly likely that a Canadian division will be formed.
While the Canadian division hasn’t been officially announced, Golden Knights owner Bill Foley brought it up during a radio interview. It still remains to be seen how the new divisions would look, but it will likely lead to some interesting matchups and a potentially exciting NHL season.
Regarding the NHL Draft Lottery
The current draft format, allowing the fifteen teams that didn’t qualify for the playoffs a chance to have one of the top three picks, is currently under review. Several GMs have called for changes to the draft, saying that tweaks are needed to increase parity.
GMs have been asked to submit ideas for possible changes to the draft. These suggestions will be reviewed and possibly implemented before the start of the season. It remains to be seen what these changes might involve and how they may affect the league going forward.
Regarding the Seattle Expansion
One of the biggest issues for the start of the new NHL season is the introduction of the Seattle expansion team, the Seattle Kraken. The team will play in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference, and while some details are yet to be ironed out, the expansion is looking set to go ahead in the 2021/22 season. According to the NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daley, “Everything is full speed ahead on the Seattle Expansion”.