Carolina Hockey Returns January 13

Cary, NC — Carolina Hurricanes hockey, and the rest of the NHL, starts back up on January 13, 2021.

Opening Day Set with New Rules Still Pending

After weeks of tireless talks between the players union, owners, NHL executives, health officials from 2 countries along with state and local officials, the two sides agreed on the sticky financial terms. All terms of the agreement aren’t even published yet but just getting the main (it all boils down to money) agreement was a huge milestone.

The season will, hopefully, be a 56 game schedule with 28 home and 28 away games. Schedules are still being worked out but I hope the NHL adopts a quasi baseball schedule in which a visiting team plays multiple games over the course of a few days. That will greatly reduce travel expenses and the risk of COVID exposure by staying in one place.

Jordan Staal indicated the players have yet to receive the new rules as far as what they’ll be allowed to do during the season, both on the road and at home. Eating at any restaurant will certainly not be allowed but how that’ll be handled will be interesting.

Canes Now in Central Division, Travel Kept “Local”

The NHL has to be commended on how they handled the bubbles during the playoffs this past summer. Mini bubble discussions were, and still may be on the table, but no one is in favor of that. Safety is and will always be the main concern by the NHL for players and staff of all teams, arenas, hotels, bus drivers and anyone that comes in contact with NHL business.

The team alignment is all switched around. The Canes will play in what’s called the Central division which includes the Canes, the Stanley Cup Champions Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, Stanley Cup runner-up Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings.

Each team will play the other 7 teams 8 times. That alone will create a bit of intensity as the season goes on. The top 4 teams in each division move on to the playoffs with no wildcards. All adds up that every game is critical and players really don’t want that ‘found’ third point in a tie game to come into play.

No Preseason Games & A Limit on Practices

There will be no preseason games and every team who was in the playoffs this summer will have only 8 practices while the 7 teams that didn’t make the playoffs will have 11. The first two rounds will be intradivisional, with the first-place team playing the fourth-place team and the second-place team facing the third-place team in the first round. The four teams that advance from the second round to the Semifinal Round will be seeded by their points total in the regular season (No. 1 vs. No. 4; No. 2 vs. No. 3).

I spoke to someone in Canada and they are beaming with pride about an all Canadian division for those 7 teams. In the Canadian division, teams will pay each other 9 or 10 times. Having to deal with travel across 4 time zones is going to be another issue but hey, Canadians are hearty folks. After the intradivisional play is done, the points each team has still come into play. In all likelihood, the Stanley Cup could see teams that are from the same conference in a normal year, such as the Canes vs. the Capitals.

Players to be Paid on Game-by-Game Basis

From left, Canes Head Coach Rod Brind’Amour, Canes owner Tom Dundon and Canes General Manager, Don Waddell.

General Manager Don Waddell acknowledged there’s no way to sugar coat it — every team will lose money this year.

Not detailing the full agreement, the players and owners agreed to set a maximum on the escrow for 2021 and allow carrying over to future years everything beyond the max. Unless something has changed, players are paid on a per game basis so they’ll only get around 68% salary, then knock off a guess of 20% for escrow and it’s easy to see how fast this affects their pay.

They’re all paid well, but they play for the love of the game and their fans. A professional hockey player has a very limited time for a career, Jaromir Jagr, Gordimer How and Chris Chelios excluded, so they want to get back to playing while being COVID safe.

Rules to Getting Geared Up for the Season

Teams will carry more roster players and the rules for the salary cap got more complicated. Each team must carry 3 goalies and all must travel for away games. If a player is called up from the Minor league, they must quarantine for 7 days and have 4 negative COVID tests during that time. Having 4 negative tests is very smart as one thing reported is the number of false positives is higher for COVID than most viruses, possibly because everything is still a learning curve.

The Canes will have most, if not all, of their practices at the new facility. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rod Brind’Amour has at least one practice at the RBC Center just to get a feel for the boards again. Roddy acknowledged not having prospects at training camp probably sets a couple back in their progression but said it would be pretty hard for anyone to break into the roster with just 8 practices.

Signing Extensions and Other Roster Decisions

Waddell still has a couple of roster decisions to make with Sami Vatanen still unsigned. He’s not worried nor in a rush to sign extensions for Dougie Hamilton or Andrei Svechnikov, but Caniacs sure want those two locked up as soon as possible. Defense is still strong and some say is the strongest D-corps in the NHL.

In reality, the Canes have ‘extra’ top quality defensemen that could be used in a trade for an established top 6 forward. Or, as some are pushing, for a solid #1 goalie. Personally, I’m fine with the Petr Mrazek, James Reimer tandem.

With the new training facility, the low key environment for the player and his family outside the arena, the coaching and management staff, as well as the weather/location, the Carolina Hurricanes organization is becoming a desired place for players. Not many that get here are in a rush to leave and many stay in the area after they retire.

Get Ready For Puck Drop, Caniacs!

Pull out that Carolina Hurricanes sweater, hat or mug and get ready for what should be a short but exciting year. And as always, keep up with the Canes Coverage on CaryCitizen. You can subscribe to get free news updates in your inbox right here.

Go Canes!

Story by Bob Fennel. Featured image by Ashley Kairis, others courtesy of the Canes public Facebook page. See more Canes coverage on CaryCitizen

All the Cary news for the informed Cary citizen. Subscribe by email.