By Adrian Dater
Mind you, this is not official yet. Nothing with the NHL’s 2020-21 regular season is official yet. But National Hockey Now via Adrian Dater can report this with good faith:
Even though the likelihood of fans being in the stands is next to zero, NHL teams will play their regular-season home games in their own buildings. The concept of any “hub cities”, like there were in the playoffs, is not on the drawing board anymore, NHL sources tell me. Sources also tell the National Hockey Now Network that the travel will only be to games within a team’s division, however.
In the New York Islanders’ case, that means a schedule – expected to be 56 games – that will see games against only seven opponents: the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres. The Islanders are expected to be in this one-year-only, realigned Northeast Division. Again, the schedule is not set just yet with regard to every opponent. Could there be a special one-off type of game played, say, outdoors, between teams from other divisions or conferences? Sources say that’s still possible.
Because of the new vaccines against the coronavirus, the league feels confident it can execute a regular season in which teams travel from city to city, though the precautions are still expected to be lengthy and formidable. The NHL remains adamant, however, that it will not seek to jump the queue in obtaining vaccinations ahead of others, such as hospital workers, the elderly and first responders.
It is highly unlikely that fans will be in the stands, at least at the start of the regular season, which still has a Jan. 13 target date. Could there be some fans, though, given that the NFL, MLS and MLB all have allowed a limited number in the building? That question is still essentially on a day-to-day basis. No one really knows what the landscape might look, say, two months from now with regard to the virus.
The league knows it will take another financial hit this season, but feels very optimistic that things will be back to normal for the 2021-22 season.