The NHL is planning to open the 2021-22 season on Oct. 12, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.
That’s roughly a week later than a typical 82-game regular season would start, an understandable delay given that the Stanley Cup playoffs are expected to roll through mid-July. Sources said that training camps for NHL teams would open on Sept. 22.
The league informed its general managers of the planned dates on a call Wednesday, according to sources.
The dates are tentative and still need to be approved by the NHL Players Association before they’re formalized. Any delays in completing the 2020-21 season, which was limited to 56 games because of the COVID-19 pandemic, could push the start dates later in the year.
Among other topics the league discussed with GMs on Wednesday’s call, according to sources:
• There remains little clarity about the NHL returning to the Winter Olympics for the first time since the 2014 Sochi Games. As part of its four-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement last year, the NHL told the NHLPA that players would participate in the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament. But that’s pending a new agreement by the NHL, NHLPA, International Olympic Committee and International Ice Hockey Federation. Sources told ESPN that the NHL needs finality on the matter before it creates the 2021-22 schedule, because there must be an Olympic break in February. Talks are expected to ramp up in the next two months.
• Among the NHL rules that were discussed with NHL vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell on Wednesday, the GMs were briefed on the “puck over the glass” delay-of-game rule, after there was some concern about the minor penalty it carries being too harsh. Some GMs cited the icing rule, which only results in a faceoff in the offending team’s zone with no chance for a line change. But there was no formal move for an adjustment of this rule or any rule-change proposals to come out of the meeting.
Campbell also presented examples of cross-checking infractions to the GMs, explaining that the NHL is seeking to crack down on some forms of it that result in obstruction of opposing players.
• There was a discussion about the 2021 NHL draft, which remains scheduled for July 23-24 and is expected to be conducted in the same virtual manner as last season’s. Specifically, there was talk about how to speed up the picks on the second day of the draft, which dragged significantly last year.
• There was curiously no discussion about how the NHL will handle its “final four” teams in the playoffs and where they will play. The Canadian border closure has led to speculation that the winner of the North Division would have to play at a neutral site in the U.S.