So, about that all-Canadian division…
There may be a hiccup in those plans as it was reported Thursday night that the current realignment proposal for the 2020-21 NHL season may have to change. If an agreement regarding protocols with provincial health authorities cannot be worked out, we may see all seven Canadian teams play their games in the U.S.
The NHL would like all 31 teams playing a 56-game schedule in their own buildings, but should the Canadian teams be forced move south that would mean another realignment proposal.
From Chris Johnston of Sportsnet:
However, that plan requires approval from health authorities in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia and it’s believed to have met some opposition. The government prefers the bubble setup the NHL used for its summer return-to-play in Edmonton and Toronto, according to sources, but the league doesn’t believe it’s feasible to recreate that for an entire season.
At a time when COVID-19 cases are rising across the country the provincial health authorities need to be comfortable with the NHL’s protocols, which are still being formulated and finalized with the NHL Players’ Association.
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A spokesman for the Canada Public Health Agency sent out the following:
“The Government of Canada’s priority is to protect the health and safety of Canadians. The resumption of sports events in Canada must be undertaken in adherence to Canada’s measures to mitigate the importation and spread of COVID-19. NHL teams and other professional sports teams must operate within the rules of their provincial jurisdictions for sports or sporting events.”
The all-Canadian division was proposed due to the current U.S./Canada border restriction. That forced MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays to play in Buffalo and will see the NBA’s Toronto Raptors play in Tampa.
It was anticipated that the league and players would have a plan in place this week, which would then move to a vote by the Board of Governors and the PA’s Executive Committee. As of now, no plan is in place and no votes are scheduled.
The NHL is still targeting a Jan. 13 start date with training camps opening later this month.
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.