There’s still hope for NHL games in Canada after board signs off on season blueprint

The NHL and its players association have made it official: The league intends to play a 56-game regular season starting Jan. 13.

The Maple Leafs are expected to play in the North Division, featuring all seven Canadian teams, with the league realigned because of travel concerns and coronavirus restrictions. They would play only each other, right through to the second round of the Stanley Cup final.

The various provincial governments have yet to sign off on the NHL’s plans to allow Canadian teams to play in their own buildings, but there was optimism that would happen this week.

“The National Hockey League looks forward to the opening of our 2020-21 season, especially since the Return to Play in 2019-20 was so successful in crowning a Stanley Cup champion,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “While we are well aware of the challenges ahead, as was the case last spring and summer, we are continuing to prioritize the health and safety of our participants and the communities in which we live and play.”

Many of the details of the agreement were reported Friday, and many more are yet to come.

For example, the league said it will release its health and safety protocols, transition rules and critical dates as well as the 2020-21 schedule in the coming days.

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