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Hockey’s back! NHL, NHLPA approve 56-game season starting Jan. 13

The first game of 2021 season is just a few weeks away!

Winnipeg Jets v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

We have a hockey season!

On Sunday afternoon, the NHL and its player association formally approved the Friday’s agreement for a 56-game regular season that begins on Jan. 13 and will conclude on May 8.

The Blackhawks’ training camp will open on Jan. 3, the same date for all 24 teams that qualified for the 2020 postseason. The other seven teams will open training camp on Dec. 31. There will be no preseason games.

Because of ongoing restrictions due to the pandemic, the NHL has realigned its four divisions, including one all-Canadian division.

Here are the four divisions and its member teams:

  • Central: Hurricanes, Blue Jackets, Stars, Red Wings, Blackhawks, Panthers, Predators, Lightning
  • East: Bruins, Sabres, Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Flyers, Penguins, Capitals
  • West: Ducks, Coyotes, Avalanche, Kings, Wild, Sharks, Blues, Golden Knights
  • North: Canadiens, Canucks, Flames, Jets, Maple Leafs, Oilers, Senators

The regular season schedule will be intra-division games only, with each team facing its seven division opponents eight times. For the North Division, those teams will face each other nine or 10 times.

Game schedules are expected to be released in the next few days.

At the end of the regular season, the top four teams from each division will enter a two-round playoff until each division produces a winner. Those four teams will then play two more playoff rounds to decide the winner of the Stanley Cup.

Here are some additional important dates for the upcoming season and the 2021 offseason:

Start date: Jan. 13
Trade deadline: April 12
Regular season ends: May 8
Playoffs begin: May 11
Last possible playoff day: July 15
Expansion draft: July 21
NHL draft: July 23-24
Free agency opens: July 28

Let’s do that hockey!