On Sunday, following a call with the NHL Board of Governors, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association announced they have agreed to a plan for a 56-game season, to begin on Jan. 13, 2021. Health and Safety Protocols, transition rules and the full 2020-21 schedule are expected to be released this week.
There’s still plenty of details about the season that they were able to hammer out. Here’s what we know so far about the 2021 San Jose Sharks season:
Training camp for the 2021 season will begin on Dec. 31, 2020 for those teams who were not part of the 2020 postseason. The teams who did play last summer will open their training camps on Jan. 3, 2021. There will not be any pre-season exhibition play before the season begins on Jan. 13.
Local public health measures in Santa Clara County, including a ban on indoor and contact sports, means the Sharks will host their camp in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the Ice Den. The Coyotes have previously used this facility for their own camps.
“It hasn’t been easy,” general manager Doug Wilson told reporters on Sunday. “We’re very sensitive to our community and our fanbase and even the county making sure that this situation, while it hasn’t been easy on anyone, we’re not the only business that has had to make adjustments in their operations. I think the county officials are doing what they think is in the best interest of our communities, and we certainly respect that. It’s our hope that we get to a place where we can get our team back to San Jose and the Bay Area for the start of the regular season, but a lot of those things are out of our hands, so we’ll continue to stay in contact with the county as we go through that.”
Staff and players will arrive in Scottsdale on Dec. 30, and their hotel is five minutes away from the facilities. They will be allowed 36 skaters and an “unlimited number of goalies.” Teams will be expected to carry three goaltenders on their roster, or between their roster and taxi squad.
To accommodate for players missing games due to COVID-19 protocols, teams will carry a taxi squad of four to six extra players. These squads are allowed to practice with the NHL team and join NHL team activities (and, in fact, are barred from participation in AHL practices and activities) and may travel with the team, though it is not required.
Even though players on the taxi squad are only allowed to practice with the NHL team, players on two-way contracts are paid their AHL salary and players who would require waivers to be sent down to the minors will also have to clear waivers to make the taxi squad.
CapFriendly compiled a full list of taxi squad details here:
Border closures have necessitated a temporary re-alignment of the four league divisions, resulting in one all-Canadian division and three divisions in the United States. To limit travel while the pandemic is on-going, play for the regular season will be limited to intradivisional play only. Each team in the East, Central and West divisions will play every other team in its division eight times, while each team in the North Division will play every other team in its division nine or 10 times.
As predicted, the Sharks will enter a new “West Division,” that includes the five US-based Pacific Division teams, plus three additions from the former Central Division. There were a few variations on which among the Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild would end up shifting west, but the final alignment leaves Dallas with the Central teams.
Schedule and Important Dates
Critical Dates, 2021 NHL Season
|Dec. 28||Waivers period begins|
|Dec. 31||Training Camp for non-playoffs teams begins|
|Jan. 3||Training Camp for playoff teams begins|
|Jan. 13||Season starts|
|Feb. 1||Teams can begin requesting players waive their NMC for expansion draft purposes|
|April 12||Trade Deadline|
|May 8||Season ends|
|May 11||Playoffs begin|
|July 15||Last possible day of playoffs|
|24 hrs after playoffs end||Buyout period begins|
|July 21||Seattle Expansion Draft|
|July 23||2021 NHL Entry Draft, Round 1|
|July 24||2021 NHL Entry Draft, Rounds 2-7|
|July 28||Free agency begins|
We don’t have a schedule of games yet, but it’s expected that games will be played in a series of a few games in one location, again to limit travel. The NHL says it is prepared to have one or more neutral site per division to host teams who are not able to open in their arenas.
The Sharks might also start the season with several road games, with the hope that they can get back to SAP Center after the season begins.
It’s expected that most teams will at least open the season without fans, though that decision is left to teams and what their local regulations will allow.
Playoffs will begin on May 11, 2021, with best-of-seven series over four rounds. There will be no conference-based “wild card” ranking this postseason. Instead, the top four teams in each division will qualify for playoffs — again, limiting play to intradivision through the second round of playoffs. The four teams that advance to the Semifinal Round will be seeded by their regular season points total, with the No. 1 seed playing the No. 4 seed and the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds playing each other.