2020–21 NHL season
Template:Infobox sports season The 2020–21 NHL season is the 104th season of operation (103rd season of play) of the National Hockey League (NHL). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the regular season has been reduced to 56 games and began on January 13, 2021. Due to COVID-19 cross-border travel restrictions currently imposed by the Canadian government, the league temporarily realigned for this season, putting all seven Canadian teams into one division. The playoffs are then tentatively scheduled to run from May until July under a 16-team format with the top four teams from each division.
League business[edit source | edit]
Impact of COVID-19 and temporary realignment[edit source | edit]
The 2020–21 season was originally planned to begin in October 2020 and end with the Stanley Cup being awarded in June 2021, but this had to be changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In December, the league said that the season would be shorter than the typical 82 games. Attendance at each arena will be limited by local health orders. The league also relies on attendance for at least 50 percent of its revenue, and the players are against spending the full season isolated in neutral-site bubbles similar to their situation during the 2020 playoffs.
In July 2020, the league and the NHL Players' Association (NHLPA) initially agreed to tentatively schedule the opening of training camp on November 17, 2020, and the start of the regular season on December 1. In October 2020, both the NHL and NHLPA began discussions on the specific details on how to proceed with the season. On October 6, the NHL and the NHLPA agreed to delay the targeted start date of the regular season to January 1, 2021, and to decide at a later date when to open training camp.
In mid-November 2020, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly stated that the league was still targeting a January 1 start, but that "we have to build in flexibility for the hiccups that we expect will come along and have to expect will come along with potential COVID positives and contact tracing requirements", citing "difficulties" faced by Major League Baseball and the National Football League over their handling of the pandemic.
On December 20, the league unveiled its plans for a 56-game regular season and that the teams would temporarily be realigned into four divisions. Due to COVID-19 restrictions traveling into and out of Canada, all seven Canadian teams were placed in one division.
The temporary alignment is as follows:
Draft[edit source | edit]
The 2020 NHL Entry Draft was originally scheduled for June 26–27, 2020, at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It took place on October 6 and 7 in a remote format, hosted from the NHL Network studios in Secaucus, New Jersey. The New York Rangers were awarded the first pick in the 2020 Draft after winning the second phase of the draft lottery on August 10 and selected Alexis Lafreniere.
Postponed All-Star, outdoor, and international games[edit source | edit]
The league had originally scheduled this season's international, All-Star, and outdoor games prior to the pandemic.
Two preseason games were planned to be played in Europe: the Boston Bruins against Adler Mannheim at SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany, and the Nashville Predators against SC Bern at PostFinance Arena in Bern, Switzerland. In addition, three regular season games, were also planned: the Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic; and two games between the Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland, later in the fall.
The 2021 Winter Classic planned for January 1, 2021 was to feature the Minnesota Wild hosting the St. Louis Blues at Target Field. The Florida Panthers and their BB&T Center were then scheduled to host the All-Star Game on January 30, and the Stadium Series game was to be hosted by the Carolina Hurricanes at Carter–Finley Stadium on February 20, against an opponent yet to be announced.
On May 8, 2020, the league postponed the five international games, aiming to reschedule them for the 2021–22 season. The league then announced on October 22, 2020 that the Winter Classic and the All-Star Game were also being postponed to the next year due to "ongoing uncertainty" since fan participation are considered "integral to the[ir] success. The decision to further postpone the Stadium Series game was made on December 23, also because fans would not be able to attend that event.
Sponsorship[edit source | edit]
To offset reduced revenue due to games being played with limited to no spectators, the NHL is experimenting with allowing additional advertising placements that will aim to retain between $80–90 million that would have otherwise been lost, including allowing teams to sell a sponsor placement on their players' helmets (helmet entitlement partner). Sponsor logos along the bottom of the glass just above the boards, sponsor logos on front-row tarps covering unused seats, sponsor logos on the glass behind the benches (in addition to the boards below them), and virtual ads projected just inside the blue lines. 
Collective bargaining agreement[edit source | edit]
On July 10, 2020, the league reached an agreement to renew the CBA through the 2025–26 NHL season, including an increase of the minimum player salary to $750,000 from $700,000, increasing the maximum value of entry-level contracts, deferring 10% of player salaries for the 2020–21 season to cover costs associated with the pandemic (they will be paid back over three seasons beginning 2022–23), escrow of player salaries capped at 20% for this season and decreasing incrementally to 14-18%, 10%, and 6% over the three seasons that follow (with the 6% applying thereafter), doubling of the playoff bonus pool to $32 million, and an agreement for the NHL to negotiate a return to the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympics (after being absent from the 2018 Winter Olympics).
The CBA will be automatically renewed through 2026–27 if player escrow debt falls between $125 million and $250 million after the 2024–25 season.
Salary cap[edit source | edit]
As part of the new CBA, the salary cap will remain at $81.5 million for the 2020–21 season. Future increases will occur incrementally until the league recovers from the financial impact of the pandemic.
Rule changes[edit source | edit]
The league announced on December 22, 2020, that the offside rules have been modified so that players only have to break the plane of the blue line to be ruled onside instead of having to actually touch it with their skate.
Player and puck tracking technology[edit source | edit]
For the first time, the NHL deployed the league's player and puck tracking system in all 31 NHL arenas. The system will allow on-air features such as speed displays, puck tracking graphics, and marker graphics hovering above players (though not to the extremes on-air of the mid-90s FoxTrax experiment). The league had planned to deploy this technology to all 31 arenas by September 2019, but a change to its primary technology partner delayed implementation until the 2020 playoffs.
After the first week of the season, the league announced that it was temporarily suspending the puck tracking system due to performance issues, stating that "the first supply of 2020–21 pucks did not receive the same precise finishing treatments during the off-season manufacturing process as were used during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs". The player tracking remained unaffected.
Media rights[edit source | edit]
NBC Sports' current ten-year contract for U.S. national broadcast rights will expire after the 2020–21 season (marking its 15th season overall as an NHL broadcaster); the NHL has explored the possibility of splitting its national media rights between interested broadcasters, and possibly signing with an over-the-top service (such as DAZN or ESPN+). In any case, the league is looking to generate more revenue than the nearly US$2 billion total that NBC paid over the life of their 2011–12 to 2020–21 contract. Sports Business Journal reported on June 15 that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL was delaying negotiations for its media rights to late-2020 or early-2021.
In Canada, this will be the seventh season of the league's twelve-year rights deal with Rogers Sports & Media. Sportsnet West has renewed its regional rights to the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers under a multi-year deal, which had expired at the end of the previous 2019–20 season.
On October 5, 2020, the Winnipeg Jets renewed its regional television rights with TSN3 under a multi-year deal, and announced that Corus Entertainment would assume the team's radio rights under a seven-year deal, with CJOB and CJKR-FM serving as co-flagships and both replacing CFRW. It marks the first time Winnipeg's NHL team will air on CJOB, since the original Winnipeg Jets. The San Jose Sharks ended their radio relationship with KUFX and shifted to online-only audio broadcasts.
NBC's lead play-by-play announcer Mike Emrick announced his retirement from broadcasting on October 19, 2020, after a 47-year career. In January 2021, it was announced that Sportsnet commentator Dave Randorf would become the new play-by-play announcer for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Fox Sports Sun, succeeding Rick Peckham.
Impact of COVID-19 on production[edit source | edit]
For most regular season games, the home team's regional television rightsholder will serve as the host broadcaster, providing a neutral "world feed" to the away team's local rightsholder and other media partners. NBC will use the world feed during its non-exclusive telecasts but plans to have its own production crews onsite for its exclusive broadcasts.
In Canada where a team's regional broadcaster is either Sportsnet or TSN, the impact is less severe because both Canadian broadcasters use Dome Productions as their facilities and technical provider. For its Hockey Night in Canada and Wednesday Night Hockey national broadcasts, Sportsnet will either use its regular national production crews or use its local Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, or Vancouver production crews.
Coaching changes[edit source | edit]
|Team||2019–20 coach||2020–21 coach||Story / Accomplishments|
|Calgary Flames||Bill Peters
|Geoff Ward||Peters resigned on November 29, 2019, after accusations of racism were made by former Rockford IceHogs player Akim Aliu when Peters was coaching the AHL club a decade earlier. Peters spent 1⅓ seasons with the Flames, registering a record of 12–12–4 to start the season after reaching the first round of the playoffs as the top seed in the Western Conference the previous season. Ward, who served as an assistant coach, was named interim head coach. On September 14, Ward was named head coach.|
|Dallas Stars||Jim Montgomery
|Rick Bowness||Montgomery was dismissed on December 10, 2019, due to "unprofessional conduct inconsistent with the core values and beliefs" of the Stars and the league. He spent 1⅓ seasons with the Stars, registering a record of 17–11–3 to start the season after reaching the second round of the playoffs the previous season. Bowness, who served as an assistant coach, was named interim head coach. On October 29, Bowness was named head coach.|
|Minnesota Wild||Bruce Boudreau
|Dean Evason||Boudreau was fired on February 14, 2020, after 3⅔ seasons with the team, which had registered a record of 27–23–7 to start the season. The Wild had reached the playoffs in the first two seasons of his tenure in Minnesota but had not qualified for the playoffs since the 2017–18 season. Evason, who had served as an assistant coach with the Wild since the start of the 2018–19 season, was immediately named interim head coach. On July 13, Evason was named head coach.|
|New Jersey Devils||John Hynes
|Lindy Ruff||Hynes was fired on December 3, 2019, after 4⅓ seasons with the team, which had registered a 9–13–4 record to start the season. The Devils reached the playoffs once in Hynes' tenure, and did not advance past the first round in 2018. Nasreddine, who served as an assistant coach, was named interim head coach. On July 9, the Devils named Ruff as head coach who was previously an assistant coach for the New York Rangers.|
|San Jose Sharks||Peter DeBoer
|Bob Boughner||DeBoer was fired on December 11, 2019, after 4⅓ seasons with the team, which had registered a record of 15–16–2 to start the season. The Sharks qualified for the playoffs in all of the four previous seasons under DeBoer, and advanced to the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals. Boughner, who served as an assistant coach, was named interim head coach. On September 22, Boughner was named head coach.|
|Washington Capitals||Todd Reirden||Peter Laviolette||Reirden was fired on August 24, 2020, after the team failed to get past the first round for the second consecutive year. The team won the division title each year under Reirden, accumulating an 89–46–16 record over two seasons. On September 15, the Capitals named Laviolette as head coach, who had been fired by Nashville the previous season.|
(*) Indicates interim.
Front office changes[edit source | edit]
|Team||2019–20 GM||2020–21 GM||Story / Accomplishments|
|Arizona Coyotes||John Chayka
|Bill Armstrong||Chayka (after four years with the team) quit unexpectedly as the team headed into the 2020 Qualifying Round. Sullivan was named interim general manager. Bill Armstrong was named general manager on September 16. Armstrong had previously served as assistant general manager of the St. Louis Blues.|
|Buffalo Sabres||Jason Botterill||Kevyn Adams||Botterill was fired of June 16, 2020, after three years as the Sabres' general manager, and was replaced by Adams.|
|Florida Panthers||Dale Tallon||Bill Zito||Tallon and the Panthers agreed to part ways on August 10, 2020. Zito was named general manager on September 2.|
|New Jersey Devils||Ray Shero
|Tom Fitzgerald||Shero was fired on January 12, 2020, after five years as the Devils' general manager. Fitzgerald was named interim general manager. On July 9, Fitzgerald was named general manager.|
(*) Indicates interim.
Arena changes[edit source | edit]
- The Colorado Avalanche's home arena was renamed from the Pepsi Center to Ball Arena on October 22, 2020.
- The New York Islanders are scheduled to play all of their home games for the 2020–21 season at Nassau Coliseum. The team had split their home games between Nassau and Barclays Center during the past two seasons. The Islanders plan to move to UBS Arena for the 2021–22 season. In June 2020, Mikhail Prokhorov, whose company ran the Nassau Coliseum, announced that the Coliseum would be closed indefinitely while it seeks new investors to take it over and assume the remaining debt. In August 2020, the Coliseum's new leaseholders said that the Islanders would continue to play their home games in the arena during the season.
Regular season[edit source | edit]
The regular season began on January 13, 2021. Teams will play games within their division only. The teams in the three U.S. divisions will play each of their seven division opponents eight times. Due to limitations on travel into and out of Canada, the seven Canadian teams have been aligned into a single North division. The seven teams in the North Division will play each other nine or ten times. To further reduce travel, a "baseball-style" schedule is being used where teams will play each other two or three times in a row.
Outdoor games[edit source | edit]
On January 1, 2021, it was reported that the NHL was planning two outdoor games at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort in Lake Tahoe on February 20 and 21, with the Flyers playing the Bruins and the Avalanche playing the Golden Knights. It was suggested that the cancellation of stadium-based outdoor games due to reduced fan involvement had led the NHL to pursue outdoor games in scenic locations instead. The NHL officially confirmed the games, NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe, on January 11, 2021.
Postponed games[edit source | edit]
[edit source | edit]
- The San Jose Sharks' home opener has been pushed to February 1 due to Santa Clara County indefinitely banning all contact sports in response to a local rise of COVID-19 cases, forcing the Sharks to begin the season on an extended road trip.
- The Dallas Stars' first four games (road contests against the Florida Panthers on January 14 and 15 and the Tampa Bay Lightning on January 17 and 19) were postponed after six Dallas players and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19 by January 8. At least eight games involving either Dallas, Florida, or Tampa Bay were rescheduled to accommodate the postponements, including rescheduling one of the Dallas–Tampa Bay games for May 10, two days after the regular season was originally scheduled to end.
- The Carolina Hurricanes–Nashville Predators game on January 19 was postponed "out of an abundance of caution" after four Carolina players were added to the COVID-19 list. On the following day, the league decided to also postpone Carolina's next two games against Florida on January 21 and 23.
Standings[edit source | edit]
Playoffs[edit source | edit]
The top four teams in each division will qualify for 2021 playoffs under this season's temporary realignment. The first two rounds of the playoffs will be played under a pure divisional format, with the first-place team in each division playing the fourth-place team, and the second-place team playing the third-place team. The winners of those series will then play each other in the second round. The four teams that then advance to the third round, dubbed the Stanley Cup Semifinals, will be re-seeded based on regular season points. All rounds will be best-of-7. With the temporary realignment and suspension of conferences, the league has yet to announce whether they will award the Campbell and Wales trophies this season.
Statistics[edit source | edit]
Scoring leaders[edit source | edit]
The following players led the league in regular season points at the completion of games played on January 19, 2021.
|Travis Konecny||Philadelphia Flyers||4||4||2||6||+5||0|
|Tomas Hertl||San Jose Sharks||3||3||3||6||–3||2|
|Mitch Marner||Toronto Maple Leafs||4||3||3||6||+1||4|
|John Tavares||Toronto Maple Leafs||4||3||3||6||+2||2|
|Jack Hughes||New Jersey Devils||3||2||4||6||+3||0|
|Taylor Hall||Buffalo Sabres||4||1||5||6||–1||0|
|Jack Eichel||Buffalo Sabres||4||0||6||6||–1||0|
|Kyle Connor||Winnipeg Jets||3||3||2||5||+1||2|
|Andrei Svechnikov||Carolina Hurricanes||3||3||2||5||+2||2|
|Sidney Crosby||Pittsburgh Penguins||4||3||2||5||–1||2|
|Connor McDavid||Edmonton Oilers||4||3||2||5||–1||4|
|Tom Wilson||Washington Capitals||4||3||2||5||+1||2|
Leading goaltenders[edit source | edit]
|Semyon Varlamov||New York Islanders||2||Template:Tts||2||0||0||0||2||1.000||0.00|
|Tuukka Rask||Boston Bruins||2||Template:Tts||1||1||0||3||0||.923||1.46|
|Juuse Saros||Nashville Predators||2||Template:Tts||2||0||0||3||0||.959||1.50|
|Andrei Vasilevskiy||Tampa Bay Lightning||2||Template:Tts||2||0||0||3||0||.950||1.50|
|Mackenzie Blackwood||New Jersey Devils||3||Template:Tts||2||0||1||6||0||.948||1.90|
|Jacob Markstrom||Calgary Flames||3||Template:Tts||2||0||1||6||1||.935||1.99|
|Jonathan Bernier||Detroit Red Wings||2||Template:Tts||2||0||0||4||0||.927||2.00|
|Robin Lehner||Vegas Golden Knights||2||Template:Tts||2||0||0||4||0||.926||2.01|
|Philipp Grubauer||Colorado Avalanche||3||Template:Tts||2||1||0||6||1||.923||2.01|
|John Gibson||Anaheim Ducks||3||Template:Tts||1||1||1||6||1||.937||2.03|
Uniforms[edit source | edit]
Wholesale team changes[edit source | edit]
- The Buffalo Sabres reintroduced their original royal blue, gold and white uniforms full-time, worn by the team from 1970 to 1996.
- The Calgary Flames reintroduced their original red, yellow, and white uniforms, worn by the team from 1980 to 1994. The design had been used as an alternate, retro jersey in recent seasons. The team's primarily red and black former home sweater will be the alternate jersey going forward.
- The Dallas Stars introduced new alternate black and neon green uniforms.
- The Ottawa Senators reintroduced its 1997–2007 logo, with a gold outline as opposed to red, and a uniform set similar to the jerseys used from 1992 to 1995.
- The San Jose Sharks reintroduced their original Heritage jersey worn by the team from 1991 to 1998, to be worn during select games to celebrate their 30th anniversary.
- The Vegas Golden Knights introduced new alternate metallic gold uniforms.
- From January 16, 2021 through the end of February (in honour of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month), all players will wear commemorative "Celebrating Equality" decals on their helmets featuring an image of Willie O'Ree—the first black player in the NHL—whose jersey will be retired by the Boston Bruins on February 18.
"Reverse Retro" jerseys[edit source | edit]
- Central Division
- Carolina Hurricanes: 1979 Hartford Whalers jerseys, the team's first season after the NHL–WHA merger when they were the Whalers, except gray.
- Chicago Blackhawks: 1940 throwbacks.
- Columbus Blue Jackets: 2000 throwbacks, the team's inaugural season, except red.
- Dallas Stars: 1999 throwbacks, when they won the Stanley Cup, except white throughout, including the pants.
- Detroit Red Wings: 1998 throwbacks, when they won their ninth Stanley Cup in 1998; taking additional inspiration from their white jerseys from 1961 except replacing the red stripes with silver ones.
- Florida Panthers: 1996 throwbacks, when they made their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance, except navy blue and with the team's current color scheme.
- Nashville Predators: 1998 throwbacks, the team's inaugural season.
- Tampa Bay Lightning: 2004 throwbacks, when they won their first Stanley Cup, but now blue.
- East Division
- Boston Bruins: primarily "gold"-color throwback jerseys, with details matching those of the 1987–88 and 1989–90 seasons, when the team reached two Stanley Cup Finals over a three-season span.
- Buffalo Sabres: The team's first third jersey in 2000, except done in the team's current colors and on a white template.
- New Jersey Devils: 1982 throwbacks, the team's first season in New Jersey after relocating from Denver when they were the Colorado Rockies, except the green and red are reversed.
- New York Islanders: 1980 throwbacks, when they won the first out of four consecutive Stanley Cups in the navy blue focused color scheme the team used from 1995 to 2010.
- New York Rangers: 1996 alternate jerseys that feature the head of the Statue of Liberty.
- Philadelphia Flyers: 1995 throwbacks, when Eric Lindros won the Hart Trophy, similar but the black and white elements are swapped out for one another.
- Pittsburgh Penguins: 1997 throwbacks, when Mario Lemieux won his sixth scoring title, except white instead of black.
- Washington Capitals: 1997 throwbacks, featuring the "screaming eagle", except done in their current color scheme.
- North Division
- Calgary Flames: The team's first third jersey in 1998.
- Edmonton Oilers: 1979 throwbacks, the team's first season after the NHL–WHA merger. This jersey is inspired by the 1972 Alberta Oilers design.
- Montreal Canadiens: 1976 throwbacks, except the blue and red are reversed.
- Ottawa Senators: 1992 throwbacks, the team's inaugural season, but now red.
- Toronto Maple Leafs: 1970 throwbacks, originally colored with white accents, but now gray, the 1967–1970 logo is on the crest of the jersey.
- Vancouver Canucks: The team's third jersey in 2001, originally colored with red gradients, but now green.
- Winnipeg Jets: The 1979 jerseys of the original Winnipeg Jets, the team's first season after the NHL–WHA merger, except now a dark gray base with navy blue accents.
- West Division
- Anaheim Ducks: The team's first third jersey in 1995, featuring team mascot Wildwing breaking out a sheet of ice, except white instead of jade.
- Arizona Coyotes: The team's first third jersey in 1999, originally colored green but now purple.
- Colorado Avalanche: 1979 Quebec Nordiques jerseys, the team's first season after the NHL–WHA merger when they were the Nordiques albeit in a 1991 design and using the Avalanche's burgundy and blue color scheme.
- Los Angeles Kings: 1989 throwbacks, when Wayne Gretzky broke the NHL record for all-time leading scorer. The design has the 1988–1998 era logo and is colored in forum blue (purple) and gold colors used on the team's original uniforms from 1967 to 1988.
- Minnesota Wild: Features the current Wild logo with the style and colors of the 1978 Minnesota North Stars jerseys.
- St. Louis Blues: 1995 throwbacks, but colored in red.
- San Jose Sharks: The team's first third jersey in 1998, but now gray.
- Vegas Golden Knights: Based on the jerseys worn by the 1995 Las Vegas Thunder of the International Hockey League, except the teams's secondary logo is on the crest of the jersey, and the dominant color is red.
Milestones[edit source | edit]
First games[edit source | edit]
The following is a list of notable players who played their first NHL game during the 2020–21 NHL season, listed with their first team.
|Alexis Lafreniere||New York Rangers||First overall pick in the 2020 Draft|
Last games[edit source | edit]
The following is a list of players of note who played their last NHL game in 2020–21, listed with their team:
Major milestones reached[edit source | edit]
- On January 13, 2021, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza recorded his 600th assist.
- On January 14, 2021, Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown scored his 300th goal.
- On January 15, 2021, Colorado Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog scored his 200th goal.
- On January 16, 2021, Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter recorded his 500th assist.
See also[edit source | edit]
- 2020 in sports
- 2021 in sports
- COVID-19 pandemic in Canada
- COVID-19 pandemic in the United States
- Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sports
- 2020–21 NHL transactions
- 2020–21 NHL suspensions and fines
References[edit source | edit]
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The Bruins' new alternate sweater is a gold remix of the team's white home uniform worn at Boston Garden from 1981-95, which included trips to the Stanley Cup Final in 1988 and 1990.
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