All Canadian teams to be relocated for the 2021 season?

Thoughts on how the NHL could do imitate the NBA with its Toronto (Tampa Bay) Raptors


Nothing has been set in stone but it does feel like we are heading towards an NHL’s divisional re-alignment for the upcoming 2021 season which could include an all-Canadian division. That’s right, the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets all in the same group, seeing that  travel restrictions are still tightly in place between Canada and the United States. 

When the NBA announced that the Raptors were denied request to play home games in Toronto and would begin season in Tampa, it prompted many questions to be asked if the NHL could decide to do the same thing with its Canadian teams and relocate all seven of them to the United States for the 2021 season. 

Boston Bruins insider Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic shared his thoughts on that option happening in the NHL as both the league and its Players’ Association keep negotiating on the start date for the season, its format and the possibility of holding games in hub cities. 

“It’s certainly an issue because of the travel between Canada and the States,” said Shinzawa off the bat. “Now the NHL has a more elegant solution than the NBA in terms of clustering all seven Canadian teams waiting one division, and it certainly seems that that’s the direction that the league wants to go in.

“There is a geography that goes in line with what both sides would like to do.”

The NHL has talked about the possibility of that the NHL could step away from the concept of hubs and allow teams to play their home games in their respective arena, leaving them the option of welcoming fans or not, depending on what’s happening with COVID and the rules set up by local authorities. The league could adopt a schedule similar to that of the MLB where we would see two teams face off three times in four days in mini series, in order to reduce travelling as much as possible. With the schedule likely be modelled on the 2020 MLB season in which travel was limited through geographical play, we could see for example a baseball-like series, with, the New York Rangers going to Boston for three games against the Bruins in a five-day period.

But teams would still need to travel and we have no clue what it means in terms of quarantine and strict health restrictions. The NHL would have to consider these things before getting a schedule set in stone. 

If the league is forced to proceed with the idea of having multiple hub cities, deputy commissioner Bill Daly stated in the past that the safety protocols wouldn’t be as strict as what was done in Edmonton and Toronto this past summer for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Nothing has yet to be said about relocating Canadian teams at all, though now we kinda wonder if it was brought up by media because it could be another scenario that lands on the NHL’s table. 

That sounds like it would only delay the start of the season even further…