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NHL thinking about shortened 2020-21 season, division realignment

The NHL is considering multiple ideas for the upcoming 2020-21 season.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stands next to the Stanley Cup after the game between the Dallas Stars and the Tampa Bay Lightning in game six of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place. Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has yet to announce what the league’s plan will be this upcoming season, but there are several ideas under consideration.

The league finished up their season in October, with the Tampa Bay Lightning winning the Stanley Cup Finals over the Dallas Stars. The postseason was completed in two different Canadian bubble cities — Toronto and Vancouver. While the bubbles worked exceptionally well, it’s hard to imagine the entire league playing in this format for an entire season. Last week, Bettman said the league is thinking about shortening this upcoming season and changing around the divisions.

“Our goal is to get back to a normal schedule starting in the fall and being done before July on a longer-term basis,” Bettman said (h/t NBC Sports Washington). As of right now, the league would start sometime this winter and would have to cut-down from 82 games to get back to a normal offseason schedule.

And what about changing up the divisions to limit traveling across the country? Bettman floated out an idea that could put all the Canadian teams in one division and teams playing in one city for multiple games.

“Obviously, we’re not going to move all seven Canadian franchises south of the 49th Parallel, and so we have to look at alternative ways to play,” he said.

“You’ll play for 10 to 12 days,” Bettman explained. “You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need. It’s not going to be quite as effective as a bubble, but we think we can, if we go this route, minimize the risks to the extent practical and sensible.”

This idea is something that the NBA is thinking about doing as well for their regular season. Nevertheless, it shall be interesting to see what the NHL and the NHLPA ultimately decide to do to ensure the health and safety of everybody involved.