The NHL’s 2020-21 regular season will commence Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, and conclude Saturday, May 8, when 30 of the League’s 31 teams take to the ice. The New York Rangers will not be a part of the opening night and will place their first game the next night when they host their rivals, the New York Islanders.
— RangerProud/Frank Curto (@RangerProud) December 23, 2020
The league announced that the top four teams in each division will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with intradivisional play in the first two rounds (#1 vs. #4; #2 vs. #3). The four teams that advance to the Semifinal Round would be seeded by their regular-season points total, with the No. 1 seed playing the No. 4 seed in one series and the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds meeting in the other. Formal training camps will begin on Jan. 3. There will be no pre-season games. The seven teams that did not participate in the 2019-20 Return to Play will be permitted to open their training camps as early as Dec. 31.
In their press release, the league stated that the NHL and NHLPA determined that the ongoing closure of the U.S.-Canada border required realignment, and the League and the Players also sought to minimize team travel as much as possible by shifting to exclusively intradivisional play. It is the current plan to play games in the home arenas of participating teams while understanding that most arenas will not, at least in the initial part of the season, be able to host fans. However, depending on prevailing conditions both in local markets and across North America, the League will be prepared to play games in one or more “neutral site” venues per division should it become necessary. 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.