NHL vs. COVID-19

The NHL has made many changes to be able to play during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The NHL has made many changes to be able to play during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abby Ryan, Staff Writer

The National Hockey League takes another shot at playing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NHL has made many changes to their 2020-21 season, keeping in mind the safety of the staff, players, and fans.

After awarding the Stanley Cup for the 2019-20 season in September, the NHL confined the current season to just 2021. The first puck drop of the season was on January 13, beginning the 56 game regular season schedule. The plan is to have the regular season complete on May 8 and a new champion crowned by July 9.

Along with slashing 26 games off the regular season, teams only had two weeks of training camp instead of a few months. There were also no preseason games, only team scrimmages, which led to many questions about what the quality of play would look like during the first few weeks.

To reduce league wide COVID-19 cases, NHL teams are only permitted to compete against other teams in their division. Most games this season will be played in groups of two, which means teams will play each other back to back in the same city to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We don’t want to go to a place where there’s a lot of COVID-19, we don’t want to go to a place where we can’t get the testing we need and where there’d be extensive testing…health and safety is the most important thing so there must be test available on a wide-scale basis without disrupting any medical needs,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

Another significant change is the realignment of divisions, because the US-Canada border is closed to all non-essential travel. This caused the formation of a specific all-Canada  division and the restructure of other divisions. While the NHL tried to make the changes based on geography, the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild now compete against West Coast teams.

Just like the end of last season, there will also be no fans in the stands this year. Even with crowd noise being pumped into the arena, the energy and excitement of a fierce clash at the boards or an amazing stick side save is just not the same.

“It is the plan to play games in the home arenas of participating teams while understanding that most arenas will not, at least in the initial part of the season, be able to host fans,” a source fromNHL said.

Despite all the changes this season, hockey fans are still on the edge of their seats, even if those seats are at home, and will continue cheering on their favorite teams as they race to be crowned the 2021 Stanley Cup Champions.