Of the four main North American sports leagues, the NHL experienced the most disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020-21 season was reduced to 56 games and the start pushed back from October to January.
Because of travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, the league realigned its divisions; its seven Canadian teams were placed into one North Division and its U.S. teams organized into West, Central, and East divisions. Teams played games solely within their division all season, with the top four teams in each qualifying for the playoffs.
The regular season was set to end on May 8 and the Stanley Cup playoffs to start May 11. But in early April, 22 players and four staff members of the Vancouver Canucks tested positive for a variant of the coronavirus and had eight games postponed. The playoffs were pushed back indefinitely for the team to make up those games. That has resulted in a staggered regular-season ending.