To account for travel restrictions and financial hardships linked with the COVID-19 pandemic that continued throughout the 2020-21 season, the NHL temporarily created four regional divisions that included a grouping of Canadian-only clubs because of the continued closure of the border that separates Canada and the United States to non-essential travel.
According to Greg Wyshynski of ESPN, a poll released by the NHL Players’ Association on Thursday shows that 68% of 447 players asked said they do not want to see the regional divisions remain beyond the current campaign. However, 66% of the players responded they’re in favor of the “homestand” series schedule from 2020-21 that included clubs hosting the same opponent for consecutive games similar to what occurs in MLB. The players support this type of calendar because it reduces wear and tear caused by travel.
Under the current format, teams played only against divisional opponents from the start of the regular season through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Wyshynski added the NHL has already confirmed it’s reverting back to its standard divisions for the 2021-22 campaign.
While the NHL is reportedly targeting Oct. 12 as the start date for the upcoming season, the league has not yet released a schedule because it’s unknown if Canadian teams will be permitted to host opponents without personnel having to complete isolation periods.