It may have been speculation before, but with Gary Bettman now commenting extensively on the topic, the great divide of Canada and the United States may hold, well into the NHL’s revamped 2020-2021 season. With Covid still on the rise, this is a serious issue for the league to address, and we are starting to see the league hint at an extensive plan in the works. Of course, this would have to all be worked out by the newly predicted start date, January 13th, 2021. This would involve the Canada teams only playing one another, as the United States teams do the same, until the pandemic is contained and the quarantine rules are safely lifted. Via CBSSports.com (https://www.cbssports.com/nhl/news/commissioner-gary-bettman-says-realignment-for-2020-21-nhl-season-will-probably-feature-canadian-division/), the NHL Commissioner was quoted saying the following:
“For us to return to play, we’re not going to play 82 games, obviously, and we have travel issues because of the restrictions at the border between Canada and the U.S. You can’t go back and forth, so we’re actually going to have to realign. If everything stays the way it is, we’re probably going to have to have a Canadian division and realign in the U.S., and we’re trying to focus on dealing with all of those challenges.”
There are 7 teams who would be affected by this change, and thus would affect all divisions within the league as well. Those Canada based teams are, Canadians, Flames, Oilers, Maple Leafs, Canucks, Jets, and Senators. If this model is used, thankfully we are left with an even number of United State teams, to be evenly divided, 24. How this could be done, has been addressed, but again it is strictly speculation. Gary Bettman has not commented anything decisive on if these predictions are right, or given any breakup of new, temporary divisions at this time. He was only commented again by CBSSports.com stating “We’re still a work in progress. There’s much to be determined.”
With this in mind, remember that the NHL director’s board would have to approve all the above changes. It is also important to note, we are now within a month of that projected January 2021 start date, without considering that breaks in the conversation will likely take place during the holidays. Look to Skullking Sports to keep you posted on the start of what is likely to be another historic NHL season.