Could a 2021 NHL Return resemble that of the NBA with all seven Canadian teams playing all their games in the United States?
When asked via about reports early Friday evening that stated that as a realistic possibility due to Canadian federal and provincial authorities potentially not allowing NHL games to be played in Canada for the upcoming season, an NHL source acknowledged that has been discussed but did not seem to be too concerned.
“I have every expectation that we will be permitted to play in Canada,” the source said.
With COVID cases sky-rocketing in Canada and a good portion of NHL cities in Canada in or about to be in lockdown after Christmas, the NHL’s plans of an all-Canadian division are suddenly in doubt. Sportsnet NHL Insider Chris Johnston broke the news early Thursday evening that NHL has yet to reach an agreement with the Canadian government and Provincial Health Authorities.
Sources: The NHL could move games involving Canadian teams to the United States in 2021 if its unable to reach agreement with provincial health authorities.https://t.co/bcdciuQBZs
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) December 17, 2020
As Johnston pointed out, the NHL and NHLPA are still hoping to start a 56-game shortened 2020-21 season starting January 13 and if the league and the Canadian government cannot find common ground soon, the NHL may just decide to do what the NBA did with the Toronto Raptors – who will play their home games for the 2020-21 season out of Tampa Bay – and have all seven Canadian clubs play their home matches in the United States. The NHL needs the federal and provincial governments in Canada to give the green light for the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, and Montreal Canadiens to play their home matches out of their own arenas.
According to Johnston, those Canadian government bodies would prefer the league play out of bubbles again as they did last summer in Edmonton and Toronto. As reported here this past Monday, the NHL is still considering NHL hub cities and temporary bubbles to begin the NHL Return until the COVID spikes dwindle.
Johnston also stressed that as of now ‘there is nothing concrete’ to suggest they won’t eventually approve the proposed NHL Return. With the clock ticking for that January 13 target date though, this is slowly becoming another obstacle for the NHL to overcome in a hurry.
If the NHL isn’t allowed to play non-bubble games in Canada, NHL Insider for The Athletic and TSN is reporting that the league will move those Canadian clubs down to the United States to play all games there. They will also most likely revert back to their normal divisions and not have realignment.
Probably obvious but a league source confirms that if the 7 Canadian teams end up having to play in the U.S., the all-Canadian division is likely gone and more realignment changes would be necessary. But the hope remains the 7 Cdn teams can play in Canada in the same division.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) December 17, 2020
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun then confirmed that all seven Canadian teams have been informed that they could be headed south of the border for the entire season.
— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) December 17, 2020