Despite postponing more than 100 games for coronavirus-related reasons, the NHL is still on track to complete the regular season on time by the end of April.
While it came at the expense of players competing in the Beijing Olympics, the new schedule keeps the top hockey league in the world on pace to award the Stanley Cup before July 1.
The NHL on Wednesday revealed new dates for 98 postponed games, keeping the initial target date of April 29 for the end of the regular season. That would allow the traditional 16-team playoffs to begin in early May as originally planned.
“We are profoundly grateful to our fans for their support and understanding during a challenging time and to our clubs, the NHL Players’ Association and the players for their cooperation in a rescheduling of unprecedented logistical complexity,” Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said.
The changes include moving 23 other games around and 95 games filling the Feb. 7-22 gap that previously was scheduled for the Olympic break. After the league and players union agreed to participate in the Olympics, the decision was made in late December to skip the Games in order to get through the 1,312-game season — the most in NHL history.
A total of 104 games have been postponed this season, including dozens linked to attendance restrictions in Canada.
Finishing the playoffs before Canada Day and the Fourth of July was key for the NHL after competing the 2021 season July 7; the 2020 season wrapped on Sept. 28 in quarantined bubbles following a pause of more than four months because of the pandemic. The league is hoping to start the 2022-23 season on time in early October with training camps opening in mid-September.
Before that, the league and players need to get through this season.
Taxi squads were reintroduced in late December along with a reduction in isolation time from 10 to five days after updated guidance from U.S. health officials. The NHL agreed Tuesday agreed to stop testing asymptomatic vaccinated players, coaches and staff after the All-Star break in early February, citing a continued decline of case numbers.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press