Normally, the NHL season is well underway with a couple months of play in the rear-view mirror. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, everything has changed and protocols are still in place as NHL teams prepare to return to training camp.
As for the New York Rangers, an NHL team headquartered in the part of the United States arguably hit the hardest by the pandemic, they reopened their practice facility under strict protocols that were established for the 2020 pre-bubble restart back in July. In order for the Rangers players to begin any type or workouts, they must pass tests and quarantine for the proper duration of time in case they have tested positive for Covid-19. As for the league and the players association, they still haven’t come to an agreement on the protocols for the upcoming season.
The time it takes to come to an agreement will determine how long NHL teams must wait before officially opening their training camps. The hope is for everything to begin shortly after the new year with a mid-January start for the regular season.
No matter when the season begins, it’s very unlikely that a full schedule will be put into place. After all, a mid-January start is three months later than normal. The nature of the NHL play cannot force extra games per week into a schedule. Therefore, the league will have to implement a schedule in the neighborhood of 45 to 50 games to complete around the same time as usual or play games into the summer with a vastly shortened off-season before the 2021-2022 season begins.
One thing is abundantly clear. The NHL is taking all precautions in order to minimize the spread of Covid-19. If that means starting later and having a shortened season, I believe that is for the best. After all, starting a season early without proper protocols in place would put everyone at increased risk, which could mean more cancellation and rescheduling of games, providing increasing chaos and uncertainty. The hope is for this season to go off without much of a hitch and get back to normal for the 2021-2022 season.