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Getting Ready for Puck Drop

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Hockey Puck Crop

The Winnipeg Jets are at the tail end of their two-week training camp, in preparation to open their 56-game regular season on Thursday, January 14. Significant changes have needed to be made this year, in consultation with a legion of public health officials across the country, to allow the NHL to return to play this season.

First, the league has reduced travel for all teams. More specifically to Winnipeg’s situation, they’ve eliminated cross-border travel by creating an all-Canadian North Division. The result is that during the regular season, Winnipeg will only face its six Canadian rivals: Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.

The other three divisions are West, Central, and East. All teams will play only their division rivals during the regular season, playing each team either nine or ten times depending on the division.

Next, the NHL has implemented strict COVID-19 protocols. Teams must make their home rink or practice rink available to visiting teams, and visiting teams are no longer permitted to use rinks owned by third parties.

Players are also not permitted to carpool to games and will not share hotel rooms during road trips. Furthermore, players will only be permitted to go to the rink and hotel during road trips, eliminating restaurants, bars, clubs, and other destinations.

Any player that tests positive during the season will need to follow isolation guidelines established by their local public health authorities. A player who tests positive must also be cleared by both a cardiologist and a team physician before returning to the ice.

Any players who have been in close contact with a teammate who tests positive will be allowed to continue playing as long as they test negative and remain asymptomatic.

The NHL announced a significant new rule change for this season while will impact how offside is enforced. Starting this season, players will no longer be required to have their skate in contact with the blue line to remain onside.

The blue line now becomes a vertical plane. A player is onside when either of his skates are on his own side of the line, at the moment the puck crosses the blue line.

As for key dates, the trade deadline will land on April 12, the final day of the regular season will be May 8, and the Stanley Cup playoffs are expected to kick off three days later on May 11.

For many hockey fans, this season represents more than just another chance to win the Stanley Cup. This hockey season represents a monumental step towards returning to a more familiar 82-game NHL season next year.

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