If you missed the National Hockey League (NHL) games, you should brace yourself to open the 2020-21 season on January 13, 2021. The NHL and NHL players association reached this agreement on December 20, 2020, regarding the 2021 season.
The seven non-bubble teams’ training camp is set to open on December 31, 2020, and for the remaining teams on January 3, 2021. The main question remains: when will fans be allowed back into the arenas to view games?
The Events of the NHL 2020-21 Season
We expect the season to begin with the seven teams’ training sessions that did not compete in the 2020 postseason. They will have a few extra ice sessions to benefit most players who haven’t played since March 12 when things shut down.
The remaining 24 teams will have to hold their peace until January 3, 2021, when they will be allowed back to the arenas for training.
How Many Games are Scheduled for the Season?
The season ahead seems to be a tough one to the players, but the fans are getting ready for a thrilling season. The games scheduled for this coming season are aimed at about 56 games. These games are to be played in four months, which means a busy season for the players.
The teams are likely not going to have a break once they start, and they will be playing between 4 and 5 games a week. When the league kicks off on January 13, the teams will play the 56 games, which will see the regular season-ending on May 8. Each team will play against the members of its division between eight and ten times throughout the season.
The games seem to be a little squeezed, but the timetable only makes sense when played out that way. That is because the NHL postseason shares the arena with the Olympics games, which are foreseen in late July. By then, the NHL league season should be complete and ample time left for preparation.
The Game Expectations: How will it work, and Are Fans Attending the Games?
With the NHL games’ squeezed timeline, there wouldn’t be any exhibition games, as is usually the case. This time, it will be straight to the games that count. The games are planned to be played in the home arenas of the participating teams.
However, the only backside to this is that most of the home arenas will not host fans in the initial part of the season. There is hope that some arenas will kick off with a percentage of fans attending while others will wait until the league is ripe.
The NHL organizers’ sluggish tendency to allow fans back into the arenas is mainly due to the NHL game venues’ makeup. These venues aren’t as large and open-aired as the MLB and NFL venues. So maintaining social distancing in the NHL arenas becomes quite a challenge.
The NHL arena is built complete with a roof, has smaller walkways, and always accommodates smaller attendances. However, the NHL has no difference in the rules if they need to allow fans back into the arenas. The rules are similar to those followed by the NFL and MLB.
The Possible Comeback Rules for Fans
The rules are simple. For instance, the participating teams are required to do temperature checks on fans when entering the arenas. Every fan in the arena must have their masks throughout times except when eating or drinking at designated areas.
Additionally, seats are widespread to ensure fans are separated by safe distances between them to minimize contact. Another vital thing NHL officials should be checking is the arrival of fans and fans’ tailgating culture.
During arrival, fans are more likely to get closer and interact at a closer distance. That means more restrictions are likely to come up at the arenas’ gates than the usual regulations fans got used to. Fans could be assigned specific parking spaces, arrival time, and arrival gates to minimize the build-up of numbers in the gates.
The Possible Actual Numbers of Fans to Be Allowed In
Across other leagues, fans have been allowed to enter the stadiums and arenas for live viewership. The NFL, for instance, began opening its doors to fans by allowing between 7,000 and 22,000 fans at a time. These numbers are expected to rise if the public health situation improves.
If NHL team leaders, like Eugene Melnyk, whose profile is showcased on this website, will go by similar numbers, crowd sizes would be about 4,000 people. The team leaders and the NHL organizers will have the local governments to contend with if they need fans to be allowed back into their home arenas.
If NHL teams follow the laid down rules, then all the teams will probably be opening their doors for fans but at limited percentages of the total capacities. Some counties in Canada and the US, where the NHL teams are based, are still restricting locals’ movement, making it a team-by-team situation. Some teams will be allowed to allow fans back into their arenas, while some will not.
Will You Be Seeing All Your Favorite Players in Action?
It highly depends on the players’ personal decisions. The league leadership has given the players the free will to decide whether they will be playing in the 2021 season or not. The decision to play or not was to be submitted by December 27, 2020, and you can only hope to see your favourite players’ names in the teams’ squad.
However, after the league starts, a player can still opt-out if the player or family member is considered high risk. Any player found to exhibit the COVID-19 symptoms can opt-out of the game and possibly rejoin later.
The hope of securing a place in any of the NHL arenas for live viewership depends on several decisions and factors. If you happen to be in one of the arenas, you must have braced through many obstacles to secure the chance.
Be that as it may, it’s only hopeful that situations will get better, and the gates will soon be open for the whole public to get in and enjoy the games. But until then, you can only follow the laid down procedures to see your favourite team play.