The NHL will likely be realigned and divided by country and region next season, according to Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley.
When Foley was asked about trading defenceman Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks, a division rival, Foley explained why he wasn’t concerned.
“They’re going to play in the Canadian Division this year,” said Foley. “I don’t think that border’s going to be open before January 1st. I really don’t. Cause Canada’s got spikes going on, they’re starting to lock down again. Winnipeg’s locking down. Quebec has got spikes going down. I think they’re going to play in a Canadian division. I don’t think they’re going to cross the border.”
The NHL wants to begin the next season in early 2021. With the US-Canadian border still closed, the league will have to significantly modify the way it does business.
Initial discussions regarding a potential realignment would create a Canadian Division and four regional US divisions, thus eliminating the need for border crossings.
In one concept, the Metropolitan Division would remain as-is.
The league could also opt for a reduced travel version of the above, which would move Boston and Buffalo to the Metropolitan Division and Carolina and Columbus to the Southern Division.
Regardless of how the league realigns its divisions, it will require a lot of travel for the Canadian teams, as well as more travel than normal for any American teams west of St. Louis.
One way the NHL can limit travel is by adopting a series-based schedule similar to Major League Baseball. Each team would visit each of the teams in their division for three-game sets, played in a 4-5 day span.
Fans In Stands?
Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk told the Financial Post that he believes fans will return to his arena by February, and has mapped out a “safe seating plan” with 6,000 people in the 17,000-seat Canadian Tire Centre.
Length Of Schedule
Foley believes that the NHL will play a 48- or 56-game season, which wouldn’t be unprecedented. The NHL has played a 48-game season on two occasions, both due to an owners lockout.
As Foley stated, a lot remains to be determined.
By Jon Sorensen