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• Throwbacks with a twist: The NHL launches a league-wide alternate uniform program. Dubbed "Reverse Retro," the uniforms all harken back to a prior era in teams' history, albeit with some of the colors switched around. Some, like the Devils and Canadiens, are straight-up color swaps. Others, like the Kings and Sabres, use the design from one era with the color palette of another. And still others, like the Avalanche and Hurricanes, throw it back to eras when they played in other cities.
• With the previous season not ending until September 28, the 2021 season got underway January 13th, with teams playing a 56-game schedule.
• Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S.-Canada border remained closed to all non-essential travel. Due to this, the NHL realigned for this season only, with the seven Canadian teams forming their own division and the 24 U.S. teams being split into three geographic divisions. All games are played within the divisions, in order to minimize travel. The league will revert back to the previous alignment in 2021-22, with the Arizona Coyotes moving to the Central Division to make way for the Seattle Kraken in the Pacific.
• Due to the truncated season, all of the NHL's showcase events -- the Winter Classic, the All-Star Game and the Stadium Series -- were cancelled. The NHL did, however, schedule a pair of outdoor games at Lake Tahoe, in which no fans were in attendance. In the February 20th matchup between the Avalanche and the Golden Knights, the game was delayed more than eight hours between the first and second periods due to deteriorating ice conditions caused by intense sunlight. The game resumed at 9:00 p.m. PST and was played to its rightful conclusion, with the Avs winning 3-2. The following day, the Flyers and the Bruins squared off, with the game being pushed back to 4:30 p.m. PST for the same reason. The Bruins won, 7-3. All four teams wore their Reverse Retro uniforms for the games.
• As a way to make up for revenue lost by having limited to no fans in their buildings due to the ongoing pandemic, the NHL allowed teams to sell ad space on their helmets, to the chagrin of purists. The ad logos are positioned on the sides where the team logos would normally be, and they're sized accordingly. The NHL originally announced it as a one-season initiative; but the added revenue was too much for the league to forego, so on the day that the Stanley Cup Final started, Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed that the helmet ads are sticking around.
• COVID-19 took its toll throughout the season, with many games postponed due to outbreaks within teams. The Vancouver Canucks were hit especially hard, who were forced to halt their season for 25 days starting in late March after most of the team tested positive. That will cause the North Division to stretch its regular season to May 19th, after the other three divisions would have started their playoffs.
• On April 19 in Las Vegas, Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks played in his 1,768th regular season game, breaking Gordie Howe's record for most regular season games played in NHL history.
• At the outset of the playoffs, the NHL announced that with the lack of conferences this season, the Campbell Bowl and the Prince of Wales Trophy would not be awarded. The league must have had a last-minute change of heart, because the trophies were indeed awarded (Campbell Bowl to the winner of the Golden Knights-Canadiens semifinal, Prince of Wales Trophy to the Lightning-Islanders winner).
• The temporary divisional alignment yielded a most unique Stanley Cup Final matchup. The Lightning and the Canadiens are usually division rivals. But this season, they met at the end for the NHL's biggest prize. In the final analysis, the 75-point Lightning were too much for the 59-point Canadiens, as they won their second Stanley Cup in a span of just over nine months with a five-game victory. Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy won the Conn Smythe Trophy, registering shutouts in clinching games in all four rounds of the playoffs.