If you're a hockey fan, it's been the big question on your mind since the end of summer.
What will the next NHL regular season look like?
Because even with the recent emergence of COVID vaccines, social distancing and quarantine will still be important for many months to come. And while it's one thing to create 'bubbles' to play for a couple months to complete the playoffs, that's way harder to do for a regular season that normally lasts from October to April.
After a lot of debate and meetings, the NHL appears to have a solution. The next season will begin January 13 and last somewhere between 50 and 60 games—down from the usual 82 games. The training camps (where teams meet up to get ready for the grind of the year) will start New Year's Day.
All in all, that probably allows for playoffs to begin some time in May—pretty close to normal. Which means that the season afterwards (hopefully starting October 2021) might just be business as usual. Fingers crossed.
What will it look like?
This is still getting worked out. But it will probably look a lot like what the last MLB (baseball) season looked like. Teams will play in their own home stadiums, just without any fans. So while there will be some bubble restrictions and regular COVID testing, the teams won't be locked inside a bubble.
There will also be a bunch of new 'reverse retro' jerseys that teams will be sporting, like this one for the Winnipeg Jets.
A throw back to 1979 honouring the Jets first year in the league.
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) November 16, 2020
It does sound pretty doable. After all, not only is it what baseball did, it's what the NBA is about to do, and what soccer leagues around the world have been doing for months. But in the case of hockey, there's a catch.
Canada. What do you do about all of those Canadian teams when COVID regulations won't let teams cross the border?
What to do about Canada?
Right now, the only Canadian NBA team, the Toronto Raptors, is prepped to play its home games out of Tampa Bay. But finding American homes for all seven NHL teams to play out of would be much harder. But what if those seven teams just stayed in Canada all season, playing in an all-Canada division?
That seems to be what might happen! It also means that the other 24 American teams would find themselves in one of three other brand-new divisions, and playing only within those divisions to keep things fair. What might that look like?
On one hand, it might get a little boring. For a team like the Ottawa Senators, you're going to be playing the same six teams over and over. But on the other hand, between 1942 and 1967 the entire NHL had only six teams total! And this new division may also create Canadian rivalries like we've never seen before.
If nothing else it will be a) a fun change, and b) a way for us to have live hockey. Sounds worth a shot to us! The league is expected to approve a plan within the next couple weeks.