What we (think we) know about hockey returning

After a period of uncertainty, we’ve gently been nudging towards an actual start date for the 2021 NHL season:

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So that’s encouraging, I think. I mean, the league isn’t reaching into my pockets, and while I don’t think the owners deserve a single penny more and should be solely accepting the risk, I’m content to let the NHL and NHLPA work this out amongst themselves without further disruption to the season.

As for what the season looks like, well…

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So January 13th seems somewhat reasonable, right? Maybe a little rushed and a little unfortunate for any players who need to cross a border to get back to their team. At least for those coming to Canada it seems like they’ll be spending a couple of weeks in quarantine alone rather than spending Christmas with anyone who isn’t quarantining with them.

The 10 day camp is short, but there is also a strong likelihood that teams will be having expanded rosters to some extent, so the cut and evaluation aspect is less important than other years.

For a new-ish coach, with a new staff, Sheldon Keefe still isn’t getting a chance to run a traditional training camp, and that’s going to be a bit of a challenge, but one that is going to impact a number of teams around the league equally.

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For a player like Nick Robertson, who is bound for the World Juniors, it looks like he will be able to finish his appearance at the tournament and arrive back in Toronto to catch a significant amount of the training camp if necessary.

What we’re assuming

In the 56 game schedule we have all but confirmation that the Leafs will be playing in a Canadian division, and their schedule at least to start will consist entirely of games against those teams. From the sounds of things, as well as the practical logistics angle seems to point to games being played in baseball type series of three or four games in a single city before moving on to the next location, allowing for minimal travel, mini-bubbles, and potentially more meaningful regular season hockey.

It seems that as the COVID situation changes we could see the schedule undergo revisions, but COVID speaking there hasn’t been a lot of room for optimism as of yet, and playing within Canada and in empty buildings seems to be what we should expect for the year, and any change beyond that is wishful thinking at this point.

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For now, we rejoice! Hockey is coming back. We think. There’s a date, a date that has been shared publicly, and now logistics get going. We’ll get schedules soon, and training camps, PTOs, and a whole lot of worthwhile hockey talk again. We’ll take it.