NHL officially announces 2021 season: Blackhawks, Red Wings reunited as divisional rivals
The two historic rivals, who haven’t been in the same division since 2013, will play each other eight times in the 56-game 2021 season.
The Blackhawks will play 56 games in the 2021 season, which was announced officially Sunday by the league.
Eight of those games will be against the Red Wings.
Indeed, seven seasons after the historical rivals were separated by the Wings’ move to the Eastern Conference in 2013, the battles between the Hawks and Wings will return in full force — albeit for one year only.
That’s because, with the ongoing pandemic-related Canadian border closure, the league — as had been rumored for months — realigned the 24 U.S. teams into three divisions of eight teams each and the seven Canadian teams into one “North Division.” Teams exclusively will play intradivisional opponents.
For the Hawks, that means their 2021 Central Division opponents will be the Wings, Stars, Blue Jackets, Predators, Hurricanes, Panthers and Lightning — a list that includes both 2020 Stanley Cup finalists and the home of beloved former coach Joel Quenneville.
The Wings and Hawks’ eight planned meetings will match their total from the last four seasons combined. In 2019-20, the Hawks won 4-2 at home Jan. 5 and lost 2-1 in Detroit on March 6, their final road game before the shutdown.
Sunday’s announcement did not include an actual schedule for the 2021 season, but it confirmed several dates reported Friday, including a Jan. 3 start to training camp and a Jan. 13 start to the regular season. There will be no preseason games.
Here are additional dates of note for the 2021 season and offseason, according to CapFriendly:
April 12: Trade deadline.
May 8: Regular season ends.
May 11: Playoffs begin.
July 15: Playoffs end.
July 21: Seattle Kraken expansion draft.
July 23-24: NHL Draft.
July 28: Free agency begins.
The top four teams in each division will qualify for the playoffs. Getting in that conversation could be an uphill climb for the rebuilding Hawks, though.
The announcement Sunday did not include specifics about COVID-19 protocols, which are expected to be strict but not as strict as during the 2020 postseason bubbles.
“While we are well aware of the challenges ahead, as was the case last spring and summer, we are continuing to prioritize the health and safety of our participants and the communities in which we live and play,” commissioner Gary Bett-man said in a statement.
The league will try to play games in home arenas as much as possible, but left open the possibility of neutral or hub sites if necessary.
Fans are not expected to be allowed in most arenas, likely including the United Center, “at least in the initial part of the season.”