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2020–21 NHL season

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 2020–21 NHL season is the 104th season of operation (103rd season of play) of the National Hockey League (NHL). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the regular season was reduced to 56 games and began on January 13, 2021. Due to COVID-19 cross-border travel restrictions imposed by the Government of Canada, the league temporarily realigned for this season, putting all seven Canadian teams into one division. COVID-19 outbreaks caused the games of most teams to be rescheduled beyond the regular season's original end date of May 8, with the last game being moved to May 19. The playoffs began four days earlier on May 15, under a 16-team format with the top four teams from each division.[1]

League business

Impact of COVID-19 and temporary realignment

The 2020–21 season was originally planned to begin in October 2020 and end with the Stanley Cup being awarded in June 2021, but this had to be changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting later than normal conclusion of the previous season.[2] In December, the league said that the season would be shorter than the typical 82 games.[3] Attendance at each arena was limited by local health orders.[4] The league also relies on attendance for at least 50 percent of its revenue, and the players were against spending the full season isolated in neutral-site bubbles similar to their situation during the 2020 playoffs.[5] With the NHL expecting to lose billions of dollars, several team owners privately told NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman that they wanted to suspend the season. But Bettman convinced them that they could not afford to sit out the season in the long run, especially with the expansion team Seattle Kraken joining the league in 2021–22, as well as the prospect of signing new U.S. national television deals with multiple networks (see § Media rights, below).[6]

In July 2020, the league and the NHL Players' Association (NHLPA) initially agreed to tentatively schedule the opening of training camp on November 17, 2020, and the start of the regular season on December 1.[7] In October 2020, both the NHL and NHLPA began discussions on the specific details on how to proceed with the season.[5] On October 6, the NHL and the NHLPA agreed to delay the targeted start date of the regular season to January 1, 2021, and to decide at a later date when to open training camp.[8]

In mid-November 2020, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly stated that the league was still targeting a January 1 start, but that "we have to build in flexibility for the hiccups that we expect will come along and have to expect will come along with potential COVID positives and contact tracing requirements", citing "difficulties" faced by Major League Baseball and the National Football League over their handling of the pandemic.[9]

On December 20, the league unveiled its plans for a 56-game regular season, and that the teams would temporarily be realigned into four regional divisions.[10] Due to limitations on travel into and out of Canada,[11] the seven Canadian teams were aligned into a single North division. The seven teams in the North Division played each other nine or ten times during the regular season.[12]

West Central North East
Anaheim Ducks Carolina Hurricanes Calgary Flames Boston Bruins
Arizona Coyotes Chicago Blackhawks Edmonton Oilers Buffalo Sabres
Colorado Avalanche Columbus Blue Jackets Montreal Canadiens New Jersey Devils
Los Angeles Kings Dallas Stars Ottawa Senators New York Islanders
Minnesota Wild Detroit Red Wings Toronto Maple Leafs New York Rangers
San Jose Sharks Florida Panthers Vancouver Canucks Philadelphia Flyers
St. Louis Blues Nashville Predators Winnipeg Jets Pittsburgh Penguins
Vegas Golden Knights Tampa Bay Lightning   Washington Capitals

To further reduce travel, the regular season schedule was arranged into baseball-style homestands, where multiple consecutive games with the same teams were played at the same location.[13] The only contentious issue with the temporary realignment was which two teams in the Central Time Zone would have to join the West Division. They would have more travel time playing games in the Pacific Time Zone, but they would be against the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, three of the seven teams that did not qualify for the expanded 24-team 2020 playoffs.[14] It was eventually decided to leave the Dallas Stars in the Central to make up for the team being in the Pacific Division from 1998 to 2013, and the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues moved to the West.[15]

Taxi squad

Only for this season, the NHL allowed each team to retain an extra traveling group of four to six players, including one goaltender, known as the taxi squad. The taxi squad was designed to enable swift call-ups to the NHL team in the event of positive COVID-19 cases on each team. Waiver-eligible members of the taxi squad are still subject to waiver rules. Daly stated that the taxi squad was devised only to circumvent the difficulties presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and is not likely to be used again in future seasons.[16]

Draft

The 2020 NHL Entry Draft was originally scheduled for June 26–27, 2020, at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec,[17] but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[18] It took place on October 6 and 7 in a remote format, hosted from the NHL Network studios in Secaucus, New Jersey.[19][7] The New York Rangers were awarded the first pick in the 2020 Draft after winning the second phase of the draft lottery on August 10 and selected Alexis Lafreniere.[20]

Postponed All-Star, outdoor, and international games

The league had originally scheduled this season's international, All-Star, and outdoor games prior to the pandemic.

Two preseason games were planned to be played in Europe: the Boston Bruins against Adler Mannheim at SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany, and the Nashville Predators against SC Bern at PostFinance Arena in Bern, Switzerland. In addition, three regular season games, were also planned: the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic; and two games between the Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland, later in the fall.[21]

The 2021 Winter Classic planned for January 1, 2021 was to feature the Minnesota Wild hosting the St. Louis Blues at Target Field. The Florida Panthers and their BB&T Center were then scheduled to host the All-Star Game on January 30, and the Stadium Series game was to be hosted by the Carolina Hurricanes at Carter–Finley Stadium on February 20, against an opponent yet to be announced.[22]

On May 8, 2020, the league postponed the five international games, aiming to reschedule them for the 2021–22 season.[23] The league then announced on October 22, 2020 that the Winter Classic and the All-Star Game were also being postponed to the next year due to "ongoing uncertainty" since fan participation are considered "integral to the[ir] success.[24][25] The decision to further postpone the Stadium Series game was made on December 23, also because fans would not be able to attend that event.[26]

Sponsorship

To offset reduced revenue due to games being played with limited to no spectators, the NHL is experimenting with allowing additional advertising placements that will aim to retain between $80–90 million that would have otherwise been lost, including allowing teams to sell a sponsor placement on their players' helmets (helmet entitlement partner).[27][28][29] Sponsor logos include those along the bottom of the glass just above the boards, sponsor logos on front-row tarps covering unused seats, sponsor logos on the glass behind the benches (in addition to the boards below them), and virtual ads projected just inside the blue lines.[30]

The following teams have announced their helmet sponsors for the season:

On January 5, 2021, the NHL announced that the Central, East, North, and West divisions this season will be sponsored by Discover Card, MassMutual, Scotiabank, and Honda respectively.[61]

On February 24, 2021, the NHL announced a partnership with DreamHack to serve as its new partner for esports events.[62]

Collective bargaining agreement

The collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which had been in effect since the end of the 2012–13 NHL lockout, was set to enter its penultimate season in 2020–21.[63]

On July 10, 2020, the league reached an agreement to renew the CBA through the 2025–26 NHL season, including an increase of the minimum player salary to $750,000 from $700,000, increasing the maximum value of entry-level contracts, deferring 10% of player salaries for the 2020–21 season to cover costs associated with the pandemic (they will be paid back over three seasons beginning 2022–23), escrow of player salaries capped at 20% for this season and decreasing incrementally to 14-18%, 10%, and 6% over the three seasons that follow (with the 6% applying thereafter), doubling of the playoff bonus pool to $32 million, and an agreement for the NHL to negotiate a return to the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympics (after being absent from the 2018 Winter Olympics).[64][65]

The CBA will be automatically renewed through 2026–27 if player escrow debt falls between $125 million and $250 million after the 2024–25 season.[65]

Salary cap

As part of the new CBA, the salary cap will remain at $81.5 million for the 2020–21 season. Future increases will occur incrementally until the league recovers from the financial impact of the pandemic.[64][65]

Rule changes

The league announced on December 22, 2020, that the offside rules have been modified so that players only have to break the plane of the blue line to be ruled onside instead of having to actually touch it with their skate.[66]

Player and puck tracking technology

For the first time, the NHL deployed the league's player and puck tracking system in all 31 NHL arenas. The system will allow on-air features such as speed displays, puck tracking graphics, and marker graphics hovering above players (though not to the extremes on-air of the mid-90s FoxTrax experiment).[67][68] The league had planned to deploy this technology to all 31 arenas by September 2019, but a change to its primary technology partner delayed implementation until the 2020 playoffs.[69]

After the first week of the season, the league announced that it was temporarily suspending the puck tracking system due to performance issues, stating that "the first supply of 2020–21 pucks did not receive the same precise finishing treatments during the off-season manufacturing process as were used during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs". The player tracking remained unaffected.[70]

Expansion

On April 30, 2021, the Seattle Kraken paid the final installment of their expansion fee, formally admitting them into the NHL and allowing them to begin acquiring players.[71] The team signed their first player, QMJHL free agent Luke Henman, on May 12, 2021.[72]

Coaching changes

Coaching changes
Off–season
Team 2019–20 coach 2020–21 coach Story / Accomplishments
Calgary Flames Bill Peters
Geoff Ward*
Geoff Ward Peters resigned on November 29, 2019, after accusations of racism were made by former Rockford IceHogs player Akim Aliu when Peters was coaching the AHL club a decade earlier. Peters spent 1⅓ seasons with the Flames, registering a record of 12–12–4 to start the season after reaching the first round of the playoffs as the top seed in the Western Conference the previous season. Ward, who served as an assistant coach, was named interim head coach.[73][74] On September 14, Ward was named head coach.[75]
Dallas Stars Jim Montgomery
Rick Bowness*
Rick Bowness Montgomery was dismissed on December 10, 2019, due to "unprofessional conduct inconsistent with the core values and beliefs" of the Stars and the league. He spent 1⅓ seasons with the Stars, registering a record of 17–11–3 to start the season after reaching the second round of the playoffs the previous season. Bowness, who served as an assistant coach, was named interim head coach.[76][77] On October 29, Bowness was named head coach.[78]
Minnesota Wild Bruce Boudreau
Dean Evason*
Dean Evason Boudreau was fired on February 14, 2020, after 3⅔ seasons with the team, which had registered a record of 27–23–7 to start the season. The Wild had reached the playoffs in the first two seasons of his tenure in Minnesota but had not qualified for the playoffs since the 2017–18 season. Evason, who had served as an assistant coach with the Wild since the start of the 2018–19 season, was immediately named interim head coach.[79] On July 13, Evason was named head coach.[80]
New Jersey Devils John Hynes
Alain Nasreddine*
Lindy Ruff Hynes was fired on December 3, 2019, after 4⅓ seasons with the team, which had registered a 9–13–4 record to start the season. The Devils reached the playoffs once in Hynes' tenure, and did not advance past the first round in 2018. Nasreddine, who served as an assistant coach, was named interim head coach.[81] On July 9, the Devils named Ruff as head coach who was previously an assistant coach for the New York Rangers.[82]
San Jose Sharks Peter DeBoer
Bob Boughner*
Bob Boughner DeBoer was fired on December 11, 2019, after 4⅓ seasons with the team, which had registered a record of 15–16–2 to start the season. The Sharks qualified for the playoffs in all of the four previous seasons under DeBoer, and advanced to the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals. Boughner, who served as an assistant coach, was named interim head coach.[83] On September 22, Boughner was named head coach.[84]
Washington Capitals Todd Reirden Peter Laviolette Reirden was fired on August 24, 2020, after the team failed to get past the first round for the second consecutive year. The team won the division title each year under Reirden, accumulating an 89–46–16 record over two seasons.[85] On September 15, the Capitals named Laviolette as head coach, who had been fired by Nashville the previous season.[86][87]
In–season
Team Outgoing coach Incoming coach Story / Accomplishments
Buffalo Sabres Ralph Krueger Don Granato* Krueger was fired on March 17, 2021, after parts of two seasons with Buffalo, with the team suffering a 6–18–4 start and a 12-game losing streak. Krueger totaled a 36–49–12 record during his short tenure, and failed to lead the team to the playoffs in his lone complete season. Assistant coach Granato was named interim head coach.[88]
Calgary Flames Geoff Ward Darryl Sutter Ward was fired on March 4, 2021, after parts of two seasons with Calgary, with the team starting the season 11–11–2. Ward amassed a 35–26–5 record during his brief tenure, and led the team to the first round of the playoffs in 2020. Sutter, who had previously coached Calgary from 2002 to 2006, and most recently was head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 2011 to 2017, was named as his replacement shortly afterwards.[89][90]
Montreal Canadiens Claude Julien Dominique Ducharme* Julien was fired on February 24, 2021, after parts of five seasons during his second stint as head coach of the Canadiens, which had registered a 9–5–4 record to start the season. Julien compiled a 129–123–35 record during his second stint and the team reached the playoffs twice during his tenure, never advancing past the first round. Assistant coach Ducharme was named interim head coach.[91]

(*) Indicates interim.

Front office changes

General managers
Off–season
Team 2019–20 GM 2020–21 GM Story / Accomplishments
Arizona Coyotes John Chayka
Steve Sullivan*
Bill Armstrong Chayka (after four years with the team) quit unexpectedly as the team headed into the 2020 Qualifying Round. Sullivan was named interim general manager.[92] Bill Armstrong was named general manager on September 16. Armstrong had previously served as assistant general manager of the St. Louis Blues.[93]
Buffalo Sabres Jason Botterill Kevyn Adams Botterill was fired on June 16, 2020, after three years as the Sabres' general manager, and was replaced by Adams.[94]
Florida Panthers Dale Tallon Bill Zito Tallon and the Panthers agreed to part ways on August 10, 2020.[95] Zito was named general manager on September 2.[96]
New Jersey Devils Ray Shero
Tom Fitzgerald*
Tom Fitzgerald Shero was fired on January 12, 2020, after five years as the Devils' general manager. Fitzgerald was named interim general manager.[97] On July 9, Fitzgerald was named general manager.[98]
In–season
Team Outgoing general manager Incoming general manager Story / Accomplishments
New York Rangers Jeff Gorton Chris Drury Gorton was fired on May 5, 2021 shortly after the team became eliminated from the playoffs. Gorton joined the team in 2007 as a professional scout, becoming the general manager on July 1, 2015. Drury was promoted to president and GM after previously serving as the associate GM.[99]
Pittsburgh Penguins Jim Rutherford
Patrik Allvin*
Ron Hextall Rutherford resigned on January 27, 2021 citing personal reasons. Rutherford joined the Penguins in 2014 as general manager and led the team to two Stanley Cup victories, making the playoffs in all six seasons.[100] Patrik Allvin was named interim general manager. On February 9, 2021, Ron Hextall was announced as the general manager. He was previously GM of the Philadelphia Flyers from 2014 to 2018.[101]

(*) Indicates interim.

Arena changes and regulations

  • The Colorado Avalanche's home arena was renamed from the Pepsi Center to Ball Arena on October 22, 2020.
  • The New York Islanders are scheduled to play all of their home games for the 2020–21 season at Nassau Coliseum. The team had split their home games between Nassau and Barclays Center during the past two seasons. The Islanders plan to move to UBS Arena for the 2021–22 season.[102] In June 2020, Mikhail Prokhorov, whose company ran the Nassau Coliseum, announced that the Coliseum would be closed indefinitely while it seeks new investors to take it over and assume the remaining debt.[103] In August 2020, the Coliseum's new leaseholders said that the Islanders would continue to play their home games at the arena for the 2020–21 season.[104][105][106]

COVID-19 restrictions

All American teams hosted a limited amount of in-person spectators during the regular season; only three admitted them at the start of the season.[107] While several Canadian teams submitted proposals (including Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa) to allow for in-person spectators, they were all rejected by local health authorities. All North Division games were played behind closed doors for the entirety of the regular season.[108][109][110][111] During the Stanley Cup playoffs, a number of U.S. teams further increased their capacity, and three of the Canadian playoff teams admitted spectators for the first time, although only one team has offered tickets to the general public.

Team Home games with spectators Limitations Source
Anaheim Some April 16: 10% capacity [112]
Arizona All Original: 25% capacity [107]
Boston Some March 22: 12% capacity

May 10: 25% capacity

May 27: Full capacity

[113][114][115]
Buffalo Some April 3: 10% capacity, with negative COVID PCR test no older than 72 hours or proof of full vaccination required (delayed from March 20, as the originally-scheduled game was postponed due to players from the opposing team being under league COVID protocol) [116][117][118]
Calgary None All games played behind closed doors. [111][110]
Carolina Some March 4: 15% capacity

May 17: 12,000 spectators

[119][120]
Chicago Some May 9: 25% capacity; last American team to begin allowing spectators. [121][122]
Colorado Some April 2: 22% capacity

May 12: 42.3% capacity

[123][124]
Columbus Some March 2: 10% capacity

March 9: 25% capacity

[125][126][127]
Dallas All Original: 25% capacity [107]
Detroit Some March 9: 750 spectators [128]
Edmonton None All games played behind closed doors. [111][110]
Florida All Original: 30% capacity

May 16: 50% capacity

[107][129]
Los Angeles Some April 20: 10% capacity [112]
Minnesota Some April 5: 3,000 spectators [130]
Montreal Some May 29: 2,500 spectators; first Canadian team to begin allowing spectators. [108][131]
Nashville Some January 26: 15% capacity

April 19: 33% capacity

[132][133]
New Jersey Some March 1: 10% capacity

April 2: 20% capacity

[134][135]
NY Islanders Some March 18: 10% capacity, with negative COVID PCR test no older than 72 hours or proof of full vaccination required

May 19: 25% capacity

June 3: 12,000 spectators

[116][136][137][138]
NY Rangers Some February 26: 10% capacity, with negative COVID PCR test no older than 72 hours or proof of full vaccination required [116][139]
Ottawa None All games played behind closed doors. [109]
Philadelphia Some March 7: 15% capacity [140]
Pittsburgh Some March 1: 15% capacity

April 15: 25% capacity

May 18: 50% capacity

[141][142][143][144]
San Jose Some April 26: 1,000 spectators, negative COVID-19 test or proof of full vaccination was required to enter, initially began with 520 spectators before scaling to legal maximum [145][146]
St. Louis Some February 2: 1,400 spectators

May 21: 50% capacity

[147][148]
Tampa Bay Some March 13: 3,800 spectators

May 5: 4,200 spectators

May 20: 7,000 spectators

[149][150]
Toronto Invited guests only All games played behind closed doors. May 31 playoff game was played with 550 invited health care workers; members of the general public were not admitted. [108][151][152]
Vancouver None All games played behind closed doors. [108]
Vegas Some March 1: 15% capacity

May 16: 50% capacity June 1: Full capacity

[153][154][155][156]
Washington Some April 27: 10% capacity

May 14: 25% capacity

[157][158][159][160]
Winnipeg Invited guests only All games played behind closed doors. Up to 500 invited health care workers and the immediate families of team personnel allowed beginning June 2. [108]

Due to Santa Clara County banning all contact sports in response to a local rise of COVID-19 cases, the San Jose Sharks began the season on an extended road trip.[161] Their first two home games on February 1 and 3 against the Vegas Golden Knights was to have been held at Gila River Arena, the home of division rival Arizona Coyotes,[162] but ended up being postponed due to a COVID outbreak among the Golden Knights (see also § Postponed games, below).[163] On January 25, Santa Clara County health officials announced that they were lifting the ban,[164] but the Sharks stated that they still needed to work out several health and safety issues and therefore did not return to SAP Center until February 13.[165]

The Tampa Bay Lightning initially announced that it would cap Amalie Arena at 20% capacity. However, the team's ownership later announced that no spectators will be allowed at the arena for Lightning games through at least February 2, 2021, due to concerns surrounding local case numbers.[166][167] The team later announced on March 4 that a maximum of 3,800 fans would be allowed at home games beginning March 13.[150] On May 20, the arena was allowed to expand to 7,000 spectators.[149]

On February 10, 2021, Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo announced that the state would allow large sports venues to host spectators at 10% of their capacity beginning February 23, 2021, affecting the Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders, and New York Rangers. All spectators must present proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of the event, and may also be required to submit to a rapid test if their PCR test was within more than 48 hours of the event.[168][169] By the end of March, Madison Square Garden removed the requirement for testing if the spectator is fully vaccinated (no fewer than 14 days since the spectator received the second dose of a two-dose vaccine).[170]

On March 1, 2021, Governor of Pennsylvania Tom Wolf announced that large indoor sports venues could now host spectators at 15% of their capacity, affecting the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. While the Penguins began hosting spectators the next day,[142] the Flyers were required to wait for the city of Philadelphia to revise its own stricter health orders to match state law first; however, the city quickly followed the state's guidance.[140] With their playoff run, the Penguins were able to increase to 50% capacity on May 18.[171]

Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the Washington Capitals' ownership group, applied for a waiver for 10% capacity in Capital One Arena in late March. The city government initially did not grant the waiver, leaving it as pending; it was subsequently granted on April 9.[157][158] The Capitals subsequently announced that they would admit spectators beginning with a home game on April 27.[159] The city later allowed an expansion to 25%, and the team would have been allowed to return to full capacity on June 11 if the Capitals advanced further into the playoffs.[160]

The Government of California announced on April 2 that indoor venues could host spectators at limited capacities with proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, affecting the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks.[172] The Ducks and Kings began admitting spectators at 10% capacity on April 16 and April 20, while the Sharks began admitting spectators on April 26, scaling up from 520 to the cap of 1,000 over time.[112][145][146]

On April 29, 2021, the city of Chicago announced that it would allow United Center to operate at a quarter of its capacity beginning May 9, making the Blackhawks the final U.S.-based NHL team to reopen its arena to spectators.[121]

On May 18, 2021, the Canadiens announced that under changes to Quebec public health orders and curfews, it would be able to admit 2,500 spectators to Bell Centre no earlier than May 28. The Canadiens' Game 5 victory in their first-round series against Toronto on May 27 took the series back home to Montreal on May 29, making them the first Canadian NHL team to play a game with in-person spectators this season.[108][131] On May 31, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that the provincial government and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment would invite 550 fully-vaccinated health care workers to attend Game 7 at Scotiabank Centre, marking the Maple Leafs' first, and ultimately, only,[152] home game with any spectators this season.[151]

In June, the Manitoba government gave clearance to allow up to 500 fully-vaccinated health care workers, as well as the immediate family members of team staff, to attend Winnipeg Jets home games beginning with their second-round (North Division finals) series against Montreal.[173]

Regular season

The regular season began on January 13, 2021. Teams will play games within their division only. The teams in the three U.S. divisions will play each of their seven division opponents eight times.[12]

Outdoor games

On January 1, 2021, it was reported that the NHL was planning two outdoor games at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort in Lake Tahoe on February 20 and 21, with the Flyers playing the Bruins and the Avalanche playing the Golden Knights. It was suggested that the cancellation of stadium-based outdoor games due to reduced fan involvement had led the NHL to pursue outdoor games in scenic locations instead.[174] The NHL officially confirmed the games, NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe, on January 11, 2021.[175]

The Saturday game between Colorado and Vegas was initially beset by ice quality issues; unlike previous outdoor games, there was a lack of cloud cover, and as a result the playing surface was partially melted by direct sunlight. The game suffered a postponement of approximately eight hours following the end of the first period, with Colorado leading 1–0, in order to wait for sunset and repair the ice; play resumed at 9:00 PM local time (midnight ET), with Colorado ultimately winning 3–2. In an additional attempt to avoid further issues, the Sunday game between Boston and Philadelphia was rescheduled for 4:30 PM (7:30 ET), instead of the initially-planned 11:00 AM (2:00 ET) start time.[176]

Postponed games

COVID-19-related

  • The Dallas Stars' first four games (road contests against the Florida Panthers on January 14 and 15 and the Tampa Bay Lightning on January 17 and 19) were postponed after six Dallas players and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19 by January 8.[177] At least eight games involving either Dallas, Florida, or Tampa Bay were rescheduled to accommodate the postponements, including rescheduling one of the Dallas–Tampa Bay games for May 10, two days after the regular season was originally scheduled to end.[178]
  • The Carolina HurricanesNashville Predators game on January 19 was postponed "out of an abundance of caution" after four Carolina players were added to the COVID-19 list.[179] On the following day, the league decided to also postpone Carolina's next two games against Florida on January 21 and 23.[180] The league further postponed Carolina's game against Tampa Bay on January 26, and then rescheduled at least seven games involving either of these four teams.[181]
  • The St. Louis BluesVegas Golden Knights game on January 28 was postponed after Vegas defenceman Alex Pietrangelo and their entire coaching staff tested positive.[182] The league further postponed Vegas' next two games at the San Jose Sharks on February 1 and 3.[163] Six games were then rescheduled involving either of those three teams.[183]
  • Three New Jersey Devils games (road contests against the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 2 and 4 and a home game against the New York Rangers on February 6) were postponed after 16 New Jersey players were placed on the COVID-19 protocol list.[184]
  • Four Buffalo Sabres road games (at the New York Islanders on February 2 and 4, and at the Boston Bruins on February 6 and 8) were postponed. The Sabres were the last team to play the Devils before the three aforementioned New Jersey games were postponed. The league had initially only postponed Buffalo's February 2 game after the team's flight to New York was delayed due to weather conditions and thus pushed back the required COVID-19 tracing protocols, but decided to postpone more games after Sabres players were placed on the COVID-19 protocol list.[185] On February 6, the league rescheduled 27 games involving Buffalo, New Jersey, or other East Division teams.[186]
  • Four Minnesota Wild games (at the Colorado Avalanche on February 4, two home games against the Arizona Coyotes on February 6 and 7, and a home game against St. Louis on February 9) were postponed after five Wild players were placed on the COVID-19 protocol list.[187]
  • Four additional Avalanche games (two road games at St. Louis on February 6 and 7, and two home games against Arizona on February 9 and 11) were postponed after forwards Tyson Jost and Gabriel Landeskog were placed on the COVID-19 protocol list. As a result, the Blues and Coyotes' two-game set in St. Louis on March 29 and 31 was rescheduled to February 6 and 8, originally making it a four-game series between the two teams after having previously played on February 2 and 4.[188]
  • On February 8, the league postponed seven additional games involving Buffalo (against the Washington Capitals on February 11 and 13), Minnesota (against St. Louis on February 11 and the Los Angeles Kings on February 13), and New Jersey (against the Philadelphia Flyers on February 11 and 13 and Boston on February 15). Additional players on all three teams were placed on the COVID-19 protocol list, as well as Buffalo head coach Ralph Krueger testing positive for the virus.[189] As a result, the April 15 St. Louis–Arizona game was moved to February 12; with the previous postponements, and their originally scheduled games on February 13 and 15 in Arizona, the Blues and the Coyotes played seven consecutive times.[190]
  • The Flyers–Capitals game on February 9 was postponed after Philadelphia players were placed on the COVID-19 protocol list.[190] The league further postponed the Flyers' February 14 game at the Rangers.[191]
  • The Sharks–Golden Knights game on February 25, already a rescheduling from earlier in the month, was postponed after Sharks forward Tomas Hertl was placed on the COVID-19 protocol list.[192] The game was later rescheduled for April 23, then for May 10 after further schedule changes.[193][194]
  • Two Bruins games (at Buffalo on March 20 and a home game against the Islanders on March 23) were postponed after five Bruins players were placed on the COVID-19 protocol list.[195] The Buffalo game was rescheduled to April 20 while the Islanders game was rescheduled to April 23.[196]
  • The Edmonton OilersMontreal Canadiens games on March 22, 24 and 26, and the Ottawa Senators–Montreal game on March 28 were postponed after Canadiens forwards Joel Armia and Jesperi Kotkaniemi were placed on the COVID-19 protocol list.[197][198] As a result, thirteen North Division games were rescheduled.[196]
  • Ten Vancouver Canucks games (initial four were March 31 vs. Calgary, April 3 at Edmonton, and April 4 and 6 at Winnipeg) were postponed after two Canucks players and a member of its coaching staff were placed on the COVID–19 protocol list.[199] By April 4, the protocol list had grown to all but six players on Vancouver's active roster.[200][201] The league further postponed Vancouver's two road games in Calgary on April 8 and 10. On April 10, the NHL announced that 13 North Division games would be rescheduled to accommodate the Canucks, with the team's final regular season game scheduled on May 16.[202] On April 15, two home games scheduled for April 16 and 17 against Edmonton and Toronto respectively were postponed.[203]
  • Three Avalanche games (April 16 and 18 vs. Los Angeles, April 20 at St. Louis) were postponed after three Avalanche players were placed on the COVID-19 protocol list.[204]

Other

  • Four Stars home games (against Nashville on February 15–16, and against Tampa Bay on February 18 and 20) were postponed due to the February 13–17, 2021 North American winter storm.[205][206][207][208] As a result, the Lightning's road game at Carolina on March 28 was moved up to February 20, while the Hurricanes' originally scheduled home game against the Chicago Blackhawks was rescheduled to a later date.[209] The Lightning–Stars home contests were later rescheduled to March 2 and 16, while the Predators–Stars matchups were moved to March 7 and 21. Two Stars road games in Columbus, three in Tampa, two in Chicago, and one in Nashville were also rescheduled.[210]
  • The Blues–Kings game on March 15 was postponed as a result of the March 2021 North American blizzard. The Kings had previously played a two-game series against the Avalanche, and were unable to leave Denver and return to Los Angeles before the storm hit.[211] The game was rescheduled to May 10.[196]
  • The Blues–Wild game on April 12 was postponed following the killing of Daunte Wright which took place at nearby Brooklyn Center. The game was rescheduled to May 12.[212]

Standings

Central Division
Pos Team GP W L OTL RW GF GA GD Pts
1 y – Carolina Hurricanes 56 36 12 8 27 179 136 +43 80
2 x – Florida Panthers 56 37 14 5 26 189 153 +36 79
3 x – Tampa Bay Lightning 56 36 17 3 29 181 147 +34 75
4 x – Nashville Predators 56 31 23 2 21 156 154 +2 64
5 e – Dallas Stars 56 23 19 14 17 158 154 +4 60
6 e – Chicago Blackhawks 56 24 25 7 15 161 186 −25 55
7 e – Detroit Red Wings 56 19 27 10 17 127 171 −44 48
8 e – Columbus Blue Jackets 56 18 26 12 12 137 187 −50 48
Source: National Hockey League[213]
Rules for classification: 1) Fewer number of games played (GP, only during regular season); 2) Greater number of regulation wins (RW); 3) Greater number of wins in regulation and overtime, excluding shootout wins (ROW); 4) Greater number of total wins, including shootouts (W); 5) Greater number of points earned in head-to-head play; if teams played an uneven number of head-to-head games, the result of the first game on the home ice of the team with the extra home game is discarded; 6) Greater goal differential (GD); 7) Greater number of goals scored (GF)
e – Eliminated from playoff contention; x – Clinched playoff spot; y – Clinched division
East Division
Pos Team GP W L OTL RW GF GA GD Pts
1 y – Pittsburgh Penguins 56 37 16 3 29 196 156 +40 77
2 x – Washington Capitals 56 36 15 5 29 191 163 +28 77
3 x – Boston Bruins 56 33 16 7 25 168 136 +32 73
4 x – New York Islanders 56 32 17 7 24 156 128 +28 71
5 e – New York Rangers 56 27 23 6 24 177 157 +20 60
6 e – Philadelphia Flyers 56 25 23 8 17 163 201 −38 58
7 e – New Jersey Devils 56 19 30 7 15 145 194 −49 45
8 e – Buffalo Sabres 56 15 34 7 11 138 199 −61 37
Source: National Hockey League[213]
Rules for classification: 1) Fewer number of games played (GP, only during regular season); 2) Greater number of regulation wins (RW); 3) Greater number of wins in regulation and overtime, excluding shootout wins (ROW); 4) Greater number of total wins, including shootouts (W); 5) Greater number of points earned in head-to-head play; if teams played an uneven number of head-to-head games, the result of the first game on the home ice of the team with the extra home game is discarded; 6) Greater goal differential (GD); 7) Greater number of goals scored (GF)
e – Eliminated from playoff contention; x – Clinched playoff spot; y – Clinched division
North Division
Pos Team GP W L OTL RW GF GA GD Pts
1 y – Toronto Maple Leafs 56 35 14 7 29 187 148 +39 77
2 x – Edmonton Oilers 56 35 19 2 31 183 154 +29 72
3 x – Winnipeg Jets 56 30 23 3 24 170 154 +16 63
4 x – Montreal Canadiens 56 24 21 11 20 159 168 −9 59
5 e – Calgary Flames 56 26 27 3 22 156 161 −5 55
6 e – Ottawa Senators 56 23 28 5 18 157 190 −33 51
7 e – Vancouver Canucks 56 23 29 4 17 151 188 −37 50
Source: National Hockey League[213]
Rules for classification: 1) Fewer number of games played (GP, only during regular season); 2) Greater number of regulation wins (RW); 3) Greater number of wins in regulation and overtime, excluding shootout wins (ROW); 4) Greater number of total wins, including shootouts (W); 5) Greater number of points earned in head-to-head play; if teams played an uneven number of head-to-head games, the result of the first game on the home ice of the team with the extra home game is discarded; 6) Greater goal differential (GD); 7) Greater number of goals scored (GF)
e – Eliminated from playoff contention; x – Clinched playoff spot; y – Clinched division
West Division
Pos Team GP W L OTL RW GF GA GD Pts
1 p – Colorado Avalanche 56 39 13 4 35 197 133 +64 82
2 x – Vegas Golden Knights 56 40 14 2 30 191 124 +67 82
3 x – Minnesota Wild 56 35 16 5 27 181 160 +21 75
4 x – St. Louis Blues 56 27 20 9 19 169 170 −1 63
5 e – Arizona Coyotes 56 24 26 6 19 153 176 −23 54
6 e – Los Angeles Kings 56 21 28 7 19 143 170 −27 49
7 e – San Jose Sharks 56 21 28 7 15 151 199 −48 49
8 e – Anaheim Ducks 56 17 30 9 11 126 179 −53 43
Source: National Hockey League[213]
Rules for classification: 1) Fewer number of games played (GP, only during regular season); 2) Greater number of regulation wins (RW); 3) Greater number of wins in regulation and overtime, excluding shootout wins (ROW); 4) Greater number of total wins, including shootouts (W); 5) Greater number of points earned in head-to-head play; if teams played an uneven number of head-to-head games, the result of the first game on the home ice of the team with the extra home game is discarded; 6) Greater goal differential (GD); 7) Greater number of goals scored (GF)
e – Eliminated from playoff contention; p – Clinched Presidents' Trophy; x – Clinched playoff spot

Playoffs

The top four teams in each division qualify for the 2021 playoffs under this season's temporary realignment. The first two rounds of the playoffs will be played under a divisional format, with the first-place team in each division playing the fourth-place team, and the second-place team playing the third-place team. The winners of those series will then play each other in the second round.

The four remaining teams, one from each division, advance to the third round, dubbed the Stanley Cup Semifinals. They will be re-seeded from one to four based on regular season points, and the team seeded first will play the fourth seeded team, and the team seeded second will play the third seeded team. The winners of the Semifinals will go to play in the Stanley Cup Finals. All rounds will be best-of-7.[10] With the temporary realignment and suspension of conferences, the Campbell and Wales trophies will not be awarded this season.[214]

In each round the higher-seeded team will receive home-ice advantage.

Bracket

In each round, teams compete in a best-of-seven series following a 2–2–1–1–1 format (scores in the bracket indicate the number of games won in each best-of-seven series). The team with home ice advantage plays at home for games one and two (and games five and seven, if necessary), and the other team is at home for games three and four (and game six, if necessary). The top four teams in each division make the playoffs.

In the First Round, the fourth seeded team in each division played against the division winner from their division. The other series matched the second and third place teams from the divisions. In the first two rounds, home ice advantage is awarded to the team with the better seed. Thereafter, it is awarded to the team that had the better regular season record. Teams advancing to the Stanley Cup Semifinals are re-seeded one through four based on regular season record.

First Round Second Round Stanley Cup Semifinals Stanley Cup Finals
            
C1 Carolina 4
C4 Nashville 2
C1 Carolina 1
Central Division
C3 Tampa Bay 4
C2 Florida 2
C3 Tampa Bay 4
1 Vegas 0
4 Montreal 0
E1 Pittsburgh 2
E4 NY Islanders 4
E4 NY Islanders 4
East Division
E3 Boston 2
E2 Washington 1
E3 Boston 4
 
 
N1 Toronto 3
N4 Montreal 4
N4 Montreal 4
North Division
N3 Winnipeg 0
N2 Edmonton 0
N3 Winnipeg 4
2 Tampa Bay 0
3 NY Islanders 0
W1 Colorado 4
W4 St. Louis 0
W1 Colorado 2
West Division
W2 Vegas 4
W2 Vegas 4
W3 Minnesota 3
Legend


Statistics

Scoring leaders

The following players led the league in regular season points at the completion of games played on May 15, 2021.[215]

Player Team GP G A Pts +/– PIM
Connor McDavid Edmonton Oilers 56 33 72 105 +21 20
Leon Draisaitl Edmonton Oilers 56 31 53 84 +29 22
Brad Marchand Boston Bruins 53 29 40 69 +26 46
Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs 55 20 47 67 +21 20
Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs 52 41 25 66 +21 10
Mikko Rantanen Colorado Avalanche 52 30 36 66 +30 34
Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks 56 15 51 66 –7 14
Nathan MacKinnon Colorado Avalanche 48 20 45 65 +22 37
Mark Scheifele Winnipeg Jets 56 21 42 63 –4 12
Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins 55 24 38 62 +8 26

Leading goaltenders

The following goaltenders led the league in regular season goals against average at the conclusion of games played on May 14, 2021, while playing at least 1,320 minutes.[216]

Player Team GP TOI W L OTL GA SO SV% GAA
Alex Nedeljkovic Carolina Hurricanes 23 1,392:02 15 5 3 44 3 .932 1.90
Philipp Grubauer Colorado Avalanche 40 2,366:52 30 9 1 77 7 .922 1.95
Marc-Andre Fleury Vegas Golden Knights 36 2,146:36 26 10 0 71 6 .928 1.98
Semyon Varlamov New York Islanders 36 2,116:56 19 11 4 72 7 .929 2.04
Chris Driedger Florida Panthers 23 1,361:36 14 6 3 47 3 .927 2.07
Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning 42 2,523:37 31 10 1 93 5 .925 2.21
Juuse Saros Nashville Predators 36 2,051:48 21 11 1 78 3 .927 2.28
Tuukka Rask Boston Bruins 24 1,396:27 15 5 2 53 2 .913 2.28
Mike Smith Edmonton Oilers 32 1,846:33 21 6 2 71 3 .923 2.31
Jake Oettinger Dallas Stars 29 1,604:08 11 8 7 63 1 .911 2.36

NHL awards

Voting will conclude immediately after the end of the regular season. Statistics-based awards such as the Art Ross Trophy, Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy, William M. Jennings Trophy and the Presidents' Trophy are announced at the end of the regular season. The Prince of Wales Trophy and the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl will not presented this season due to the suspension of conferences.[214] The Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy is presented at the end of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Lester Patrick Trophy is announced following the conclusion of the playoffs.

2020–21 NHL awards
Award Recipient(s) Runner(s)-up/Finalists
Stanley Cup
Presidents' Trophy
(Best regular-season record)
Colorado Avalanche Vegas Golden Knights
Art Ross Trophy
(Player with most points)
Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers)
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy
(Perseverance, Sportsmanship, and Dedication)
Matt Dumba (Minnesota Wild)
Oskar Lindblom (Philadelphia Flyers)
Patrick Marleau (San Jose Sharks)
Calder Memorial Trophy
(Best first-year player)
Kirill Kaprizov (Minnesota Wild)
Alex Nedeljkovic (Carolina Hurricanes)
Jason Robertson (Dallas Stars)
Conn Smythe Trophy
(Most valuable player, playoffs)
N/A
Frank J. Selke Trophy
(Defensive forward)
Aleksander Barkov (Florida Panthers)
Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins)
Mark Stone (Vegas Golden Knights)
Hart Memorial Trophy
(Most valuable player, regular season)
Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche)
Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers)
Jack Adams Award
(Best coach)
Rod Brind'Amour (Carolina Hurricanes)
Dean Evason (Minnesota Wild)
Joel Quenneville (Florida Panthers)
James Norris Memorial Trophy
(Best defenceman)
Adam Fox (New York Rangers)
Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche)
King Clancy Memorial Trophy
(Leadership and humanitarian contribution)
Kurtis Gabriel (San Jose Sharks)
Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators)
P. K. Subban (New Jersey Devils)
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
(Sportsmanship and excellence)
Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Jaccob Slavin (Carolina Hurricanes)
Jared Spurgeon (Minnesota Wild)
Ted Lindsay Award
(Outstanding player)
Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers)
Mark Messier Leadership Award
(Leadership and community activities)
N/A
Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy
(Top goal-scorer)
Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs) Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers)
Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award
(Top general manager)
Vezina Trophy
(Best goaltender)
Marc-Andre Fleury (Vegas Golden Knights)
Philipp Grubauer (Colorado Avalanche)
Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning)
William M. Jennings Trophy
(Goaltender(s) of team with fewest goals against)
Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner
(Vegas Golden Knights)
Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin
(New York Islanders)
Lester Patrick Trophy
(Service to ice hockey in U.S.)
N/A

Uniforms

Wholesale team changes

  • The Buffalo Sabres reintroduced their original royal blue, gold and white uniforms full-time, worn by the team from 1970 to 1996.[217]
  • The Calgary Flames reintroduced their original red, yellow, and white uniforms, worn by the team from 1980 to 1994. The design had been used as an alternate, retro jersey in recent seasons. The team's primarily red and black former home sweater will be the alternate jersey going forward.[218]
  • The Dallas Stars introduced new alternate black and neon green uniforms.[219]
  • The Ottawa Senators reintroduced its 1997–2007 logo, with a gold outline as opposed to red, and a uniform set similar to the jerseys used from 1992 to 1995.[220]
  • The San Jose Sharks reintroduced their original Heritage jersey worn by the team from 1991 to 1998, to be worn during select games to celebrate their 30th anniversary.[221]
  • The Vegas Golden Knights introduced new alternate metallic gold uniforms.[222]
  • The Washington Capitals introduced alternate navy blue uniforms based on the ones they wore during the 2018 NHL Stadium Series.[223]
  • From January 16, 2021 through the end of February (in honour of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month), all players will wear commemorative "Celebrating Equality" decals on their helmets featuring an image of Willie O'Ree—the first black player in the NHL.[224]

"Reverse Retro" jerseys

On November 16, 2020, the NHL introduced Adidas "Reverse Retro" jerseys for all 31 teams, which feature throwback uniforms with a modern twist.[225]

West Division
Central Division
North Division
  • Calgary Flames: The team's first third jersey in 1998, but black throughout.
  • Edmonton Oilers: 1979 throwbacks, the team's first season after the NHL–WHA merger. This jersey is inspired by the 1972 Alberta Oilers design.
  • Montreal Canadiens: 1976 throwbacks, except the blue and red are reversed.
  • Ottawa Senators: 1992 throwbacks, the team's inaugural season, but now red.
  • Toronto Maple Leafs: 1970 throwbacks, originally colored with white accents, but now gray, the 1967–1970 logo is on the crest of the jersey.
  • Vancouver Canucks: The team's third jersey in 2001, originally colored with red gradients, but now green.
  • Winnipeg Jets: The 1979 jerseys of the original Winnipeg Jets, the team's first season after the NHL–WHA merger, except now a dark gray base with navy blue accents.
East Division

Milestones

First games

The following is a list of notable players who played their first NHL game during the 2020–21 season, listed with their first team.

Player Team Notability
Alexis Lafreniere New York Rangers First overall pick in the 2020 Draft

Last games

The following is a list of players of note who played their last NHL game in 2020–21, listed with their team:

Player Team Notability
Mikko Koivu[227] Columbus Blue Jackets Over 1,000 games played, one-time NHL All-Star
Ryan Miller[228] Anaheim Ducks Vezina Trophy winner, one-time NHL All-Star team selection, one-time NHL All-Star, winningest American-born goaltender in NHL history (391 wins)

Major milestones reached

  • On January 14, 2021, Minnesota Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov became the first player in NHL history to have three-plus points and an overtime goal in his debut.[229]
  • On January 28, 2021, New Jersey Devils head coach Lindy Ruff became the seventh head coach to coach 1,500 games.[230]
  • On February 2, 2021, Montreal Canadiens defenceman Shea Weber played his 1,000th NHL game, becoming the 349th player to reach the mark.[231]
  • On February 6, 2021, New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov became the 76th goaltender to play 500 games.[232][233]
  • On February 20, 2021, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby played his 1,000th NHL game, becoming the 350th player to reach the mark.[234]
  • On February 21, 2021, New Jersey Devils forward Travis Zajac played his 1,000th NHL game, becoming the 351st player to reach the mark.[235]
  • On March 7, 2021, Florida Panthers defenceman Keith Yandle played his 1,000th NHL game, becoming the 352nd player to reach the mark.[236]
  • On March 9, 2021, Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane played his 1,000th NHL game, becoming the 353rd player to reach the mark.[237]
  • On March 17, 2021, New York Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad tied a modern NHL record for most points in one period with six, set by Bryan Trottier in 1978.[238] On March 25, Zibanejad also became the first player in NHL history to score six or more points in consecutive games against one opponent, recording six points on two separate occasions against Philadelphia.[239]
  • On March 27, 2021, Florida Panthers defenceman Keith Yandle played his 900th consecutive NHL game, becoming the third player to reach the mark, as well as the first American and first defenceman.[240]
  • On April 10, 2021, Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell set an NHL record with his 11th consecutive win to start a season.[241]
  • On April 12, 2021, Carolina Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal played his 1,000th NHL game, becoming the 354th player to reach the mark.[242] Additionally, Staal joined his brother Eric as the sixth pair of brothers in NHL history to each record 1,000 games.[a]
  • On April 13, 2021, Calgary Flames forward Milan Lucic played his 1,000th NHL game, becoming the 355th player to reach the mark.[243]
  • On April 15, 2021, Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask recorded his 300th win, becoming the 37th goaltender to reach the mark.[244]
  • On April 15, 2021, Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom played his 1,000th NHL game, becoming the 356th player to reach the mark.[245]
  • On April 19, 2021, San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau played his 1,768th NHL game, becoming the all-time leader in games played and surpassing the record previously held by Gordie Howe.[246]
  • On April 21, 2021, San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau played his 900th consecutive NHL game, becoming the fourth player to reach the mark.[247]
  • On April 25, 2021, Washington Capitals defenceman Zdeno Chara played his 1,600th NHL game, becoming the 13th player to reach the mark.[248]
  • On May 5th, 2021, Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar recorded his 1,000th NHL point, becoming the 91st player to reach the mark.[249]
  • On May 8, 2021, Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid recorded his 100th point of the season in his 53rd game, becoming the ninth player to reach the mark in that short of a timespan and the first since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr did so in 1995–96.[250]
  • On May 8, 2021, Arizona Coyotes forward Phil Kessel played his 900th consecutive NHL game, becoming the fifth player to reach the mark.[251]
  • On May 11, 2021, Winnipeg Jets forward Paul Stastny played his 1,000th NHL game, becoming the 357th player to reach the mark.[252]

Broadcast rights

Canadian television

National

This is the seventh season of the league's 12-year Canadian national broadcast rights deal with Sportsnet. This includes Sportnet's sub-licensing agreements to air Hockey Night in Canada games on CBC Television and French-language broadcasts on TVA Sports.[253] As a result of the league's temporary realignment, HNIC and Wednesday Night Hockey will only air all-Canadian regular season games.[254]

Local

U.S. television

National

This is the tenth and final season of the league's U.S. national broadcast rights deal with NBC Sports, its 16th and final season overall as rightsholder.[257][258] On January 22, 2021, it was reported that NBCUniversal would shut down NBCSN—the main U.S. cable broadcaster of the NHL—by the end of the year, with its programming to be subsumed by USA Network and Peacock. As part of the transition, USA is expected to begin "carrying and/or simulcasting certain NBC Sports programming" later in the year, including NHL playoff games.[259][260]

On February 6, 2021, NHL Network began to air its first original game telecasts (as opposed to simulcasts from regional networks) under the NHL Network Showcase branding, with the inaugural season featuring 16 weekend afternoon games through the remainder of the season. Modeled upon the similarly named broadcasts on sister channel MLB Network, the games are called by Stephen Nelson and rotating analysts. They are drawn from the "European Game of the Week" package, which had been introduced in the 2018–19 season to provide opportunities for primetime NHL broadcasts by European rightsholders; with the introduction of original broadcasts for the window, the NHL Network Showcase feed is being repackaged for distribution as a world feed in Europe.[261][262][263]

Future media rights

With the NBC Sports contract expiring at the end of the season, the league has explored the possibility of splitting its U.S. national media rights between multiple broadcasters,[257] and over-the-top services (such as DAZN, ESPN+, or NBC's Peacock).[264] In any case, the league aimed to surpass the US$2 billion total that NBC paid over the life of their 2011–12 to 2020–21 contract.[265] On March 10, 2021, the NHL announced that ESPN would serve as one of the new rightsholders under a seven-year contract, which will include packages of 25 exclusive regular season games for ESPN or ABC (including opening night, the All-Star Game, and other special events), 75 exclusive games and all out-of-market games on ESPN+, rights to half of the Stanley Cup playoffs (including one conference final per-season), and four Stanley Cup Finals over the length of the contract.[266][267]

On April 26, Sports Business Journal reported that NBC had dropped out of bids for the new contract; the network had offered less than US$100 million per-season (roughly half the value of its current contract) for a package centred upon Peacock. It was reported that NBC "never was aggressive in pursuing a renewal", and that Turner Sports was a frontrunner for the remainder of the rights.[258]

The next day, the NHL officially announced that Turner Sports will serve as the second rightsholder; its networks will broadcast up to 72 exclusive national games per-season, and hold exclusive rights to the Winter Classic, half of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (split between TBS and TNT), exclusive rights to three Stanley Cup Finals for TNT, and there are plans to produce a studio show inspired by TNT's Inside the NBA. The agreement also includes over-the-top rights to all of its telecasts for HBO Max, but chairman Jeff Zucker stated that HBO Max will not immediately carry games due to a desire to focus on TBS and TNT. The structure of the two contracts heavily-resemble ESPN and TNT's current broadcast rights to the NBA.[268][269]

Local

Radio

Personnel

Harnarayan Singh, after spending the previous decade calling games in the Punjabi language for Hockey Night in Canada, made his English play-by-play debut this season working HNIC games in Alberta.[277][278]

NBC's lead play-by-play announcer Mike Emrick announced his retirement from broadcasting on October 19, 2020, after a 47-year career.[279] In January 2021, it was announced that Sportsnet commentator Dave Randorf would become the new play-by-play announcer for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Bally Sports Sun, succeeding Rick Peckham.[280]

Impact of COVID-19 on production

For most regular season games, the home team's regional rightsholder is serving as the host broadcaster, providing a neutral "world feed" to the away team's local rightsholder and other media partners. The away team's commentators are then calling the games remotely off of monitors from either their respective studios or from their home arena press boxes. NBC will also use the world feed during its non-exclusive telecasts, with its commentators working remotely from NBC Sports' studios in Stamford, Connecticut, but will also have its own crews on-site for its exclusive broadcasts (including Wednesday Night Hockey and games on the NBC broadcast network).[67] A similar arrangement is being used in Canada by Sportsnet, TSN, TVA Sports, and RDS, based primarily on their respective national and regional rights. Sportsnet is assigned to Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver; TSN has Ottawa and Winnipeg; Sportsnet and TSN are splitting Toronto; and RDS and TVA Sports are splitting Montreal. TSN and Sportsnet's respective parent companies Bell Media and Rogers Media jointly own Dome Productions, which provides the broadcast facilities for both networks.[68]

For its exclusive Hockey Night in Canada and Wednesday Night Hockey national broadcasts, Sportsnet will either use its regular national production crews or use its local Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, or Vancouver production crews.[68] Sportsnet also suspended production of its remote Hometown Hockey broadcasts.[281] To further reduce travel during the regular season, Sportsnet/HNIC's lead play-by-play announcer Jim Hughson has opted to only call national Vancouver home games, and Chris Cuthbert (who joined Sportsnet from TSN during the suspension of play) will mostly work games in Eastern Canada.[277]

See also

Notes

References

  1. ^ "NHL, NHLPA formally approve 56-game season". December 20, 2020. Archived from the original on December 20, 2020. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
  2. ^ "Bettman confirms NHL could delay start of 2020-21 season, if need be". Sportsnet. April 30, 2020. Archived from the original on September 18, 2020. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  3. ^ Cotsonika, Nicholas J. (December 15, 2020). "NHL hopes to start season in mid-January, could play in hubs, arenas". NHL.com. Archived from the original on December 16, 2020. Retrieved December 17, 2020.
  4. ^ "Bettman says 2020-21 NHL season could start in December or January". Sportsnet. September 19, 2020. Archived from the original on October 11, 2020. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
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