Not much is official regarding the 2020-21 NHL regular season. Still, the Hockey Now Network via Adrian Dater at Colorado Hockey Now can report from high-level sources the Pittsburgh Penguins and NHL teams will play their home games in their own building.
Edit: Though nothing about the 2020-21 NHL season is official.
I hesitate to write the Penguins will play at PPG Paints Arena because nothing about this pandemic has been predictable but presuming Allegheny County and the paint can are open, that’s where the Penguins will play.
Other NHL teams are having issues playing in their home arena, including the San Jose Sharks. Our friends at San Jose Hockey Now have chronicled the collision between the hockey team and northern California municipalities that have banned contact sports. Currently, the Sharks can’t play in San Jose or neighboring arenas.
NHL sources tell Dater though having fans in the stands is unlikely, NHL teams will play their regular-season home games in their own building or the building of their choice. The concept of any “hub cities,” such as we lived through in August and September, has been nixed.
Further, sources tell the Hockey Now network that teams will travel only to games within a team’s division.
For the Pittsburgh Penguins, that means a schedule – expected to be 56 games – that will see games against only seven opponents. Various reports have placed the Penguins in the Central Division, while more recent reports have put the Penguins back in the East with their natural rivals.
A 56-game schedule with seven opponents means they’ll play each team eight times. So get ready for seeing a lot of the Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins, and Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Division.
The league has not yet set a schedule regarding every opponent. There exists the possibility teams could play special one-off type games including outdoor games between teams from other divisions or conferences.
Sources concluded because of the new COVID-19 vaccines, the NHL feels confident it can complete a regular season with city-to-city travel. Our sources cautioned the precautions would be lengthy and formidable.
Following a report from Canadian reporter (and hockey stalwart) John Shannon the league would seek to purchase vaccines when available privately, the NHL remained adamant that it will not seek to jump the queue in obtaining vaccinations ahead of others, such as hospital workers, the elderly, and first responders.
It is improbable that fans will be in the stands at the start of the regular season, which still has a Jan. 13 target date. Could there be some fans, though, given that the NFL, MLS, and MLB all have allowed a limited number in the building? That question is still essentially on a day-to-day basis. No one really knows what the landscape might look like two months from now.
The league knows it will take another financial hit this season but feels very optimistic that things will be back to normal for the 2021-22 season.