Rick Zamperin: Hockey fans receive an early Christmas gift from the NHL

Now that the National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association have formally agreed to launch the 2020-21 season, a 56-game campaign that will start Jan. 13, you can allow yourself to get excited.

Yes hockey fans, after some consternation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the coolest game on Earth will soon be back — albeit with yet another new twist.

After wrapping up last season in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles, the NHL is hoping all 31 of its franchises will be able to play in their home arenas in 2021, although numerous provincial and state health authorities still need convincing that the league can do so safely and with zero health impact on the general population.

Read more: Doug Ford: No decision on NHL games with Ontario primed for lockdown

But let’s put that aside for a moment — including whether Ontario (which will be in lockdown as of Boxing Day) will allow the Maple Leafs and Senators to play at home — because in a year that has been flooded with negatives, we should focus on the positives.

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The all-Canadian Division is going to rock.

While some people might complain that they won’t be able to see their favourite team compete against the 30 others, a season-long Canadian royal rumble is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime (we hope) occurrence.

In the Original 6 days each team played its opponent 14 times during the regular season.

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We will get as many as 10 doses of the Battle of Alberta, about as many Leafs-Habs rivalry games, and watch Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson try to outduel Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele in nine or 10 games.

And come playoff time, the top four teams in the North Division (the NHL should have called it the Great White North Division or We The North Division, but, oh well) will meet in best-of-7 series.

Read more: NHL, players’ association reach deal for 56-game season beginning Jan. 13

So Toronto and Montreal, for instance, could play each other as many as 17 times this season.

How is that a bad thing?

The answer, it’s not.

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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