NHL set to start season with new rules, protocols: Here’s what you need to know

The NHL is about to embark on a season this week unlike any other.

Realigned divisions, taxi squads, a compressed schedule, a different playoff format — all amid the specter of the coronavirus pandemic that has already delayed the start of the season for one team.

The NHL announced Friday that because six Dallas players and two staff members had recently tested positive for COVID-19, the Stars’ season is not expected to start until Jan. 19 at the earliest. Dallas’ first game was scheduled to take place Thursday.

“The thing with this virus is you never know when it’s going to strike and who it’s going to hit,” Sharks captain Logan Couture said at the start of training camp. “All you can really do is be as careful as you possibly can. There’s so many things that are going to get thrown at different teams this year. Just try and be safe, try and be careful and then hope that it’s not us.”

Here are some details about the changes taking place this season.

NEW DIVISIONS: Because the northern U.S. border is closed to non-essential travel, the NHL realigned their 31 teams into four new divisions, including a division with all seven Canadian teams.

The new divisions are: EAST — Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington; CENTRAL — Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Nashville, Tampa Bay; WEST — Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota, San Jose, St. Louis, Vegas; NORTH — Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg.

SEASON LENGTH: Each NHL team is scheduled to play 56 games this season. To cut down on travel costs and potential contacts, teams will only play other teams within their divisions. Instead of playing one game in a city and moving on, teams will play each other twice in a row, sometimes on back-to-back nights and other times twice in three days. Teams in the North Division will play each other nine or 10 times this season.

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COVID PROTOCOLS: There are plenty. But mainly, coaches will be required to wear masks behind the benches. On the road, players and others in the team’s traveling party will only be allowed to go between their hotels and the arenas or league-sanctioned practice rinks, and cannot visit restaurants or bars. Meetings will be conducted virtually as much as possible.

Players and other team staff members will be tested daily through at least the first four weeks of the season. Media in most cities will be allowed to watch practices and games, but all interviews are to be conducted electronically as no reporters are allowed in locker rooms.

WHAT HAPPENS IF A PLAYER TESTS POSITIVE?: Players who test positive for the coronavirus and exhibit symptoms will be required to isolate until medical clearance is obtained. Contract tracing would begin immediately.

Players who test positive but are asymptomatic will be isolated and contact tracing would start immediately. A test to confirm would be conducted 24 hours later and if that test is negative, another test would be conducted the following day. If …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News

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