The National Hockey League’s 2020-21 season has already seen realignment for the teams.
It appears there will also be some realignment of officials.
According to a tweet from Darren Dreger, the NHL is planning on dividing up its officials, with one group set to handle the all-Canadian North Division.
There will be a stable of officials designated to the North Division. There could be officials asked to cross the border to work games. They would have to quarantine. Teams will see the same officials a lot. Best of a tough situation. https://t.co/ozIGniC7F8
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) December 22, 2020
Assuming the officials are split up, with 25% handling Canadian games, those teams will see a rotation of nine referees and nine linesmen. Each team can expect to see each official about twelve times during the regular season, barring any further rotation of referees and linesmen with those outside the division.
NHL referees and linesmen are spread out across the US and Canada, each located near a metro area to ensure coverage and assist with their rigorous travel schedules. In a typical NHL season, every official works a handful of games in each building. All referees and linesmen see every team. Don’t expect that to be the case this season.
It’ll be interesting to see what life will be like for officials during the upcoming season, especially for those working north of the border. Border-crossings, if necessary as Dreger noted, might further complicate things, depending on the requirements to do so. One would think it would be in the officials’ best interests to minimize doing so whenever possible.
During the ‘bubble’ portion of the 2019-20 season, dedicated officials were assigned to each of the two cities, Toronto and Edmonton. When the league shifted all action to Edmonton’s Rogers Place for the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final, officials from both locations were used. Of course, those restrictive bubbles included housing for all officials and players.
This time around, it will likely be back to business as usual for those wearing the striped sweaters. That means flying solo, moving from hotel to hotel, and working a full slate of road games. The officials may just be logging fewer frequent flyer miles, and seeing some of the same buildings a bit more frequently.
The puck drops on the 56-game NHL season on January 13.