The puck will drop tonight on a new NHL season for most of Canada’s teams – although fans may notice some differences from previous years.
The Toronto Maple Leafs host the Montreal Canadiens in the first game of the evening, a return to the tradition of two-story rivals opening their seasons against each other.
It is the first of five games on the schedule, which involve the Winnipeg Jets traveling to Anaheim to take on the Ducks. The night will wrap up in Edmonton as the Oilers welcome the Vancouver Canucks. Both Toronto and Montreal will miss their biggest stars.
Maple Leafs forward Austin Matthews will miss the game as he recovers from off-season wrist surgery and Hubs goaltender Carrie Price has volunteered to the league’s player assistance program for unspecified mental health issues.
Canadiens captain Shea Webber is also out, as he is on the team’s long-term injury reserve list and could be out for the rest of the season.
Fans attending games in person in Toronto and Edmonton will also be subject to restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Viewers in Ontario must provide government-issued photo identification and proof of full vaccination to enter indoor venues such as Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.
All fans 12 and older entering Edmonton’s Rogers Place must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test result.
The campaign also marked the end of another done-up North Division, in which all seven Canadian teams played each other – and none – in the previous season. The Canada-US border was closed to non-essential travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the North Division was essential. Now that the border has reopened, Canadian NHL teams are returning to their normal divisions.
The Ottawa Senators have their first game of the season on Thursday when they host the Leafs.
The Calgary Flames begin their season in Edmonton on Saturday.