By Patrick Kelly
With the NBA already agreeing on a deal to start their season on December 22, the NHL suddenly has its feet to the fire at a time when they seemed a step ahead of other leagues. Now with the NFL in full swing with some stadiums having fans and the NBA looking at the same, the NHL has started looking into possible changes to get the season going.
However, the NHL has a problem that other leagues don’t have though. They have several teams in Canada, which still has its border closed to the United State. Last month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the border will remain closed until the U.S. gets COVID under control. How many cases would have to fall for that to happen is unclear, but it appears for at least the foreseeable future that travel between the U.S. and Canada will be impossible. Although the MLB and NBA only have one team each in Toronto, that was an easy fix for the MLB and the NBA is currently looking into a place for the Raptors to play. With seven teams in Canada, it’s more difficult relocating that many teams temporarily. Instead, the NHL is looking into a possible division realignment.
Along with that would possibly be a temporary bubble. With an almost full season having to be played, a bubble like the one this year would not be feasible. Instead, the NHL will look into a hybrid model, where some teams would be in a bubble for 10-12 days and then go home for a while. Mixed in with that would be the possibility of games in teams’ own arenas with possible fans depending on the state.
As of now, besides all Canadian teams being in their own division together, it is unclear what the other divisions would look like. One thing we do know though is that both the Pacific division as well as the Atlantic division will be short three teams which may mean the Central has some teams moved around with only the Jets being out. One thing that will go back to normal though is the playoffs. Commissioner Gary Bettman made it clear they were not going to be tinkering with the playoff setup. The NHL still doesn’t have a clear date for when they will start, but pressure should mean that negotiations will pick up fast.