The Bruins are not expected to open their training camp with a full roster until Jan. 3, but that hasn't stopped a smaller group of skaters from already hitting the ice at Warrior Arena ahead of what will be a frantic 56-game season in 2021.
Nine Bruins took part in an informal, voluntary skate at Boston's practice facility in Brighton on Tuesday — with Tuukka Rask, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo, Sean Kuraly, Connor Clifton, Karson Kuhlman, Jack Studnicka and Trent Frederic all hitting the ice.
Speaking on Monday, Cam Neely acknowledged that a number of Bruins players have been back in Boston for some time, including a few individuals that spent a majority of the offseason overseas such as David Pastrnak.
"We've had some players that have been in town that had been on the ice obviously following the protocols that we did similar to last restart," Neely said. "More and more players are starting to trickle in. Everybody wants to get in town, make sure that they follow the proper quarantine issues and guidelines and get on the ice when camp is supposed to start."
NHL announces major dates for 2021 season; new offside rule
The NHL and NHLPA dropped a number of new details related to the upcoming 2021 campaign on Tuesday, including critical dates, medical protocols, transition rules and formal approval of a change to the league's offside rule.
Here is a rough outline of the league calendar for the 2021 season.
Dec. 31 - Training camps open for seven Clubs that did not participate in the resumption of play for the 2019-20 season (Anaheim, Buffalo, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Ottawa, San Jose)
Jan. 3 - Training camps open for the remaining 24 teams
Jan. 13 - 2020-21 regular season begins
April 12 - Trade deadline (3 p.m. ET)
May 8 - Last day of regular season
*May 11 - Stanley Cup Playoffs begin
*July 9 - Last possible day of Stanley Cup Final
July 17 - Deadline for Protection Lists for Expansion Draft (5 p.m. ET)
July 21 - Expansion Draft for Seattle Kraken (8 p.m. ET)
July 23 - Round 1 of NHL Draft
July 24 - Rounds 2-7 of NHL Draft
July 28 - Restricted Free Agent/Unrestricted Free Agent signing period begins (12 p.m. ET)
*subject to adjustment
One of the top takeaways from the pages and pages of information that the NHL made public on Tuesday is a tweak in the NHL rulebook in regards to the controversial offside rule.
Per the release:
Beginning in the 2020-21 regular season, a player's skate will not have to be in contact with the blue line in order to be on-side. The updated language for NHL Rule 83.1 follows.
83.1 Off-side - Players of the attacking team must not precede the puck into the attacking zone.
The position of the player's skates and not that of his stick shall be the determining factor in all instances in deciding an off-side. A player is off-side when both skates are completely over the leading edge of the blue line involved in the play.
A player is on-side when either of his skates are in contact with the blue line, or on his own side of the line, at the instant the puck completely crosses the leading edge of the blue line. On his own side of the line shall be defined by a "plane" of the blue line which shall extend from the leading edge of the blue line upwards. If a player's skate has yet to break the "plane" prior to the puck crossing the leading edge, he is deemed to be on-side for the purpose of the off-side rule.
With this new rule in place (properly explained above via video), there stands a pretty good chance that we will see a decrease in the often arduous video reviews regarding offside challenges in 2021 and beyond — most of which didn't go the Bruins' way over the last few years. Rather than having to use a 1000000000x zoom camera straight out of a Jason Bourne film to determine whether or not a player's skate was on the ice, the NHL will instead follow a similar strategy to the NFL's handling of breaking the plane on the goal line. About time a tweak like this was made.
Some of the other highlights listed from the league's announcement of new COVID-related protocols include ...
- Most players traveling for training camp will be subject to a seven-day quarantine with testing scheduled on Days 1, 3, 5 and 7. The NHL will hold daily COVID-19 testing for team personnel, players and coaches throughout training camp and the first four weeks of the 2021 season. After that, the league will re-evaluate to see if it can move to testing every other day.
- The "unfit to play" label used this past summer appears to be no more — as the NHL will announce the names of players who test positive for COVID-19 during the regular season. At the end of training camp, the NHL will make one announcement stating the total number of players that tested positive for COVID-19 during training camp, without identifying specific players or teams.
- Home teams must make their home rink or practice rink available to visiting teams. No third-party rinks can be used (Agganis Arena in Boston, for example).
- NHL coaches will be required to wear a face covering at all times this season (including on the bench) — except when engaging in physical exertion on the ice. Players will not need to wear masks on the ice during practice or game situations.
- During training camp, players are permitted to take part in full team activities when on the ice. However, workouts in the weight room will be limited to small groups of up to a maximum of 10 players at a time.
- If a player tests positive for COVID, they will be subject to a quarantine that adheres to state and local health protocols. Players will need to be cleared by both a team doctor and cardiologist before getting the green light to return to the club. Teammates who are tabbed as "close contacts" to a player that tested positive won't be required to quarantine, so long as they continue to test negative during their regular testing protocols.
- In terms of air travel, each member of an NHL traveling party will be assigned a specific seat on club flights, which will be used for the duration of each road trip. Other than using the bathroom, members of the traveling party will remain seated for the duration of the flight.
- In each NHL city, a single hotel will be designated for all visiting teams to use during road trips so that league standards for COVID-19 prevention can be consistently applied. In the hotel, each player will have their own room, while housekeeping will not be permitted to enter rooms for the duration of that player's stay. All teams must book two additional rooms on road trips in case an individual tests positive and needs to quarantine. Aside from the team hotel, rink and practice facility, players will not be able to go elsewhere while on the road — including restaurants, bars and clubs.