The long wait is over for Nashville Predators and hockey fans in general. An agreement is finally official on the 2020-21 NHL season.
After many weeks of wondering when the Nashville Predators and the rest of the NHL will actually return to the ice, there’s finally an official agreement in place.
Per multiple reports and NHL.com, the NHL and NHLPA have come to terms on a 56-game regular season to start on January 13th.
It took longer to make it official than many would’ve liked, but there’s still some time to get ready for training camps and the actual start of the 2020-21 NHL season.
Teams that missed the Return-to-Play format over this past summer will report to training camps on December 31, while the playoff teams will report on January 3.
There’s obviously a lot that remains to sort out, but at least an official agreement is finally in place. At this time last month, both sides were very apart due to financial issues and the season was looking bleak.
New divisions, old rivalries
The most intriguing part of new season is the realigned divisions that are finally unveiled. There had been speculation on numerous different alignments, but the divisions are official now.
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The Predators have some new foes that are joining them in the Central Division, including the Detroit Red Wings. An old rival that Predators fans from the early days know all too well, but nowhere near the caliber they once were.
Other newcomers in the Central Division include the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, the Florida Panthers, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas Stars will remain in the Central Division.
With this temporary Central Division, the Predators are going to get an Eastern Conference flavor to next season. The Predators went 4-3-2 last season against their new division opponents.
The rekindling of the Red Wings rivalry will be fun. When the Predators first came to Nashville in 1998 as an expansion team, there were a lot of Red Wings fans that called Nashville home and stuck with their team over the new team in town.
Tampa Bay joining the division will obviously present its problems, but the exits of the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues probably helps the path.
There’s also talk about three-game sets, much like in baseball, this upcoming season to minimize travel. That will offer a whole new layer to this and could bury you in the standings quickly after just playing two opponents to open the season.
Other details in the agreement
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman put out this statement regarding the new season and finally reaching the agreement, per NHL.com:
"“While we are well aware of the challenges ahead, as was the case last spring and summer, we are continuing to prioritize the health and safety of our participants and the communities in which we live and play. And, as was the case last spring and summer, I thank the NHLPA, particularly Executive Director Don Fehr, for working cooperatively with us to get our League back on the ice.”"
Bettman and the players were really up against the clock to get this done. They waited until almost as late as possible to figure something out, but they do deserve some credit for getting it done.
Preseason games are being axed, which is understandable considering how much time is of the essence to get this season in and not effect the 2021-22 season in any way.
Another interesting note out of this becoming official is the playoff format. It’s going back to the traditional 16-team format and best-of-seven series.
The big change is only playing games within your own division and there will be four playoff representatives in each division. Simple, but effective.
There’s still a chance that teams will play in their home arenas with no fans as opposed to playing in hubs. That part could easily change between now and when the regular season is schedule to start.
We’ll look for the Predators schedule to be released in the coming days, while also keeping an eye on the players that will be attending training camp.