2021 is officially here which means that the NHL is nearly back.
Some of you may be nursing the typical post New Year’s Eve hangover when reading this so we’ll be gentle, but we have officially waved goodbye to 2020 and can now look forward to a new year of NHL hockey.
Of course, last year was a bitterly tough one for so, so many and we hope that things begin to improve in 2021 and that we can all return to some level of normalcy.
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The sports world and the NHL in particular will be hoping for the same, of course, and it is still somewhat of a miracle that the league managed to pull off two bubbles and crown the Tampa Bay Lightning as Stanley Cup Champions in 2019-20.
Something we’re still incredibly thankful for.
It is now a new year, however, and in this case a new year means a new season with the 2020-21 NHL season slated to start on Jan. 13, 2021.
Training Camps for those seven teams that didn’t make The Bubble last year opened on New Year’s Eve, and Camps for the remaining 24 teams will open on Sunday.
It means that we are on the cusp of having actual hockey to talk about, and we’ve already seen a swathe of signings over the last week or so.
Expect that to continue.
We’ll also have a mouthwatering appetiser before the blockbuster curtain raiser on Jan. 13, with the IIHF 2021 World Junior Championship now at the Quarter-Final stage.
It has been a compelling tournament so far, you can check out our coverage of it here, and a plethora of future NHL stars are putting on an absolute show, wetting the appetite for what is to come.
Then, before we know it, actual NHL games will be upon us and that’s where the real fun and games begin in 2021.
It all starts on Jan. 13, with a five-game slate which features the Tampa Bay Lightning raising their championship banner against the Chicago Blackhawks, while an all-Canadian showdown between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the bigger, stronger and much-improved Montreal Canadiens will make for must-watch viewing.
The 2020-21 NHL season will be a marathon and a sprint to the finish line from that point on, with every single game taking on extra importance in a shortened 56-game schedule.
Division Realignment also promises to throw up a boatload of tantalizing matchups, with each team playing each other 10 times in the North Division which means 10, yes 10, Battle of Alberta’s, while you can also look forward to a number of showdowns between juggernauts like the Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights, two big favorites for the Stanley Cup.
Rivalries will also take center stage in 2020-21, particularly in a stacked East Division where the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers will meet eight times, as will the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and the New York Islanders, just to mention a few.
Attentions will then turn to the Stanley Cup Playoffs where we are guaranteed some jaw-dropping matchups in the first couple of rounds, which should just add another layer of fun to the best time of year.
And, let’s not forget that 2021 will be the year that the Seattle Kraken build their first-ever roster through the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and Free Agency before dropping the puck in October, with the NHL hoping for a normal schedule in 2021-22.
It shouldn’t be too long before the Kraken announce the first Head Coach in franchise history, and their impending arrival is just one of many storylines to watch throughout this year.
So, 2021 is officially here and that means that the fun and games can officially begin in the National Hockey League.
Bring it on!