The National Hockey League and players reached a tentative deal Friday to hold a 56-game season in 2021 beginning Jan. 13, pending the approval of each side's executive board and Canadian health officials. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed the agreement, per the AP. The NHL Players' Association's board is meeting Friday night to discuss it, while the league's Board of Governors could vote on the plan as soon as this weekend. Sportsnet in Canada first reported the tentative deal. Approval from health officials in the five Canadian provinces that have teams is still needed before the NHL can go ahead with the season. Training camps for the seven nonplayoff teams would open Dec. 31 and then Jan. 3 for the other 24 teams. It's unclear whether teams would play in their home arenas or in "hub" cities, though an all-divisional schedule is expected.
Exhibition games aren’t expected to be included in the lead-up to the new season. The NHL, like the NBA, finished its previous season in a quarantined bubble—two of them, one each in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta. One hurdle remaining for the current deal is where the seven Canada-based teams will play. The original plan was to put them in the same division, though tougher pandemic restrictions north of the border put that into limbo this week. "The resumption of sports events in Canada must be undertaken in adherence to Canada's measures to mitigate the importation and spread of COVID-19," the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a Thursday statement. "NHL teams and other professional sports must operate within the rules of their provincial jurisdictions for sports or sporting events." The NHL follows the NBA in moving toward a regular season. The NBA season opens Tuesday.
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