NHL Looks At Return To Pre-Pandemic Alignment, Scheduling As Soon As This Season

The NHL is planning to have a full 82-game schedule, fully vaccinated players and a return to pre-COVID-19 conditions for the 2021-22 season.

The regular season will begin in October and end in April, followed by the Stanley Cup Playoffs concluding in June, the league said.

After temporarily realigning and playing a 56-game intradivisional schedule this season due to the pandemic, the NHL is planning to return to its previous schedule format with each team playing all the others at least twice.

The league is also returning to its previous divisional alignment, with the Metropolitan Division and Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference and the Central Division and Pacific Division in the Western Conference.

The Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central Division to make room in the Pacific Division for the expansion Seattle Kraken, who begin play next season.

Fully vaccinated players will be able to travel without protocols and work out on and off the ice without limitations on group size — and without being tested for COVID-19 — presuming vaccination rates in the U.S. and Canada continue to climb and the Canadian government loosens travel restrictions.

The NHL and NHL Players' Association continue to discuss the procedures for unvaccinated players, a news release states.

The NHL plans to release the 2021-22 schedule before the 2021 NHL Draft on July 23-24 and said it's working on two versions of the schedule — one that includes a break for the 2022 Beijing Olympics and another that does not — pending the outcome of ongoing discussions with the NHLPA and the International Olympic Committee.

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