2021-22 N.H.L. Season: What’s New and What’s Returning to Normal

by 24USATVOct. 13, 2021, 2 a.m. 18
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Teams will be filling the house again after a season with few fans. For most of the 2020-21 season, teams played variously with their arenas at 10 to 50 percent capacity. In Canada, most games had no fans.

The league also returns to its conventional October-to-April regular season schedule after the 2020-21 season was held from January to May, and the 2019-20 campaign was halted in March because of the pandemic and the playoffs were held five months later. The league plans to play its full complement of 82 games for the first time since 2018-19. The playoffs will be held from April into June in the conventional format: 16 teams, with every series a best-of-seven.

Last season, because of strict cross-border travel restrictions, Canadian teams were all placed in the same division, and every team played only against divisional opponents. Intradivisional games are back, and so are U.S.-Canada matchups, starting with the Winnipeg Jets at the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.

There will be outdoor games in Minnesota in January, Nashville in February and Hamilton, Ontario, in March. After skipping a season, the All-Star Game is expected to return, in Las Vegas.

Where do things stand with Covid?

The league said it expected all but a handful of players to be vaccinated by opening night. The high compliance rate comes in part because unvaccinated players will be limited mostly to the hotel and arena when on the road.

The Oilers have been affected particularly acutely by Covid. Forward Josh Archibald, who has been outspoken against the vaccine, has been found to have a serious heart condition that doctors suspect was caused by the virus. Duncan Keith, the newly acquired veteran defenseman, did get vaccinated, but expressed frustration that he felt pressured to do so.

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