NHL’s hopes for next season: 82 games, return to previous divisions in 2021-22

NHL's hopes for next season: 82 games, return to previous divisions in 2021-22
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During the NHL’s latest batch of GM meetings, the league rolled out its hopes for a 2021-22 schedule, which would include a return to 82 games in the regular season.

At NHL.com, Tom Gulitti summarized some of the most important aims of that return to an 82-game slate, which would ideally begin in October and end in April. (This had been the NHL regular season standard before COVID disrupted the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.)

NHL lays out 2021-22 regular season schedule hopes at GM meetings

As expected, the NHL will return to that 82-game regular season format, and also revert to the division and conference setup from 2019-20 and before that. (The Eastern Conference again features the Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions; in the West, it will again be the Central and Pacific Divisions.)

The Coyotes are slated to move to the Central, making room for the Kraken in the Pacific.

Here are some other crucial details from the NHL GM Meetings, via Gulitti:

  • Fully vaccinated players will be able to travel without protocols. There wouldn’t be daily COVID tests. Of course, these changes hinge on vaccination rates continuing to climb in Canada and the U.S. Via Our World in Data, the vaccination rates (both fully and partially) look like this in Canada and the U.S.:
NHL's hopes for next season: 82 games, return to old divisions in 2021-22 vaccination rates Canada U.S.
via Our World in Data
  • What about unvaccinated players? That still needs to be sorted out, particularly for travel between Canada and the U.S.
  • The 82-game schedules include two versions: one with participation in the 2022 Beijing Olympics, and one without. (It looks like that process remains a work in progress.)
  • Gulitti reports that the NHL GMs spent “about 45 minutes” discussing how cross-checking is being officiated. That seems like a convenient excuse to note Nikita Kucherov‘s experiences with a broken rib.

If all goes to plan, the NHL aims to release the 2021-22 regular season schedule before the 2021 NHL Draft (July 23-24).

Between all of that, the draft, the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, and free agency, it could be quite the few weeks for NHL news. Heck, there’s already a lot to leaf through on Tuesday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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