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NHL 2021-22 schedule to be announced on ESPN

Slate to feature full 82 games; previous divisional alignment will return

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

The 2021-22 NHL schedule will be revealed during the 6 p.m. ET edition of "SportsCenter" on ESPN on Thursday.

The NHL plans to play a full 82-game schedule beginning in October and ending in April followed by the Stanley Cup Playoffs ending in June.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly on July 12 briefed general managers on the guidelines for next season and a variety of topics in a video conference called by senior executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell.

After temporarily realigning and playing a 56-game, intradivisional schedule this season because of COVID-19, the NHL is planning to return to its previous schedule format, with each team playing all the others at least twice, and its previous divisional alignment, with the Metropolitan Division and Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference and the Central Division and Pacific Division in the Western Conference.

As previously planned, the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central Division to make room in the Pacific Division for the expansion Seattle Kraken, who begin play next season. Seattle will play its first regular-season game on Oct. 12 at the Vegas Golden Knights, and its first home game on Oct. 23 against the Vancouver Canucks. 

Fully vaccinated players will be able to travel without protocols and work out on and off the ice without limitations on the size of the group and without being tested for COVID-19, presuming vaccination rates in the United States and Canada continue to climb and the government of Canada loosens travel restrictions.

The NHL and NHL Players' Association continue to discuss the procedures for unvaccinated players.

The NHL was working on two versions of the schedule -- one that includes a break for the 2022 Beijing Olympics, and another that does not -- pending the resolution to ongoing discussions with the NHLPA and the International Olympic Committee.

The NHL did not participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics after its players competed in five consecutive Olympics from 1998-2014. Its position has been that participation in the Olympics disrupts the season, particularly when not held in North America.

But last year, when the NHL and NHLPA extended the collective bargaining agreement through 2025-26, they agreed to go to the Olympics if they could reach an agreement with the International Olympic Committee.

During a press conference before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on June 28, Commissioner Bettman and Daly said those negotiations were ongoing but the sides were running out of time to reach an agreement.

"We negotiated in good faith with the Players' Association last summer," Daly said. "We agreed that if the conditions were right and we could reach agreement on all the material issues that we would commit and support going to the Olympics, and that remains our position. We've deferred to the Players' Association to try to work through those issues, and that continues, as I said, to be a work in progress."

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