If there is a season, that’s good.
Asked by hosts Brian Blessing and Stevie Smith about defenseman Nate Schmidt’s trade for the Vancouver Canucks, a divisional rival, Foley explained why he wasn’t worried.
“They’re going to play in the Canadian division this year,” said Foley.
“I don’t think the border will be open until January 1. Truly not. Because Canada has peaks, they are starting to lock in again. Winnipeg is closed. Quebec has declining peaks. I think they will play in a Canadian division. I don’t think they’re going to cross the border.
With seven teams north of the border, the NHL could possibly have a Canadian division for the regular season. It would be great for rivalries and fan interest, although it wouldn’t be great for travel, especially the three Canadian teams based in the East in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.
The closure of the Canada-U.S. Border has taken its toll in other leagues, often with teams north of the border having to temporarily relocate to the United States. This was the case with the Toronto Blue Jays, who played last season in Buffalo, as well as Canada’s three MLS teams – the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Montreal Impact and the Toronto FC – which host games in the States. -United for the rest of the season.
The NHL has plenty of options heading into next season, although it’s clear players won’t go for a multi-month bubble anymore. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has set the target date of January 1, although Foley is not convinced.
“He’s talking about January 1, I don’t know. Maybe February 1st. Maybe a shortened season and an accelerated season. ”
Bettman said plans for next season have not been finalized, with decisions likely being delayed so the league can use all the latest information available. Depending on how quickly science catches up with the virus, the way the league starts may not be the way it ends.
“There are so many strangers,” Foley said. “We don’t know when we’re going to play, if we’re going to play. I know the commissioner dedicated to having a season and awarding the Stanley Cup, but you can’t play in the bubbles. It’s impossible. You can not do that. You can’t afford it.
The NFL and MLB have begun welcoming fans back to reduced-capacity games, in states that allow it. NHL arenas are indoors and have fewer seats than these other leagues, which is not ideal, although the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning have been allowed to host surveillance nights in. their arenas during the Stanley Cup Final.
Current rules in Las Vegas would allow the Golden Knights to have 10% capacity, Foley says, which would equate to 1,750 fans at T-Mobile Arena.
“Everyone is very nervous. We all thought we would probably be out of COVID by now and have fans in the arena. So I think we have to see what we can accomplish with partial fans. Forty percent. Fifty percent. Can we bring so many people into the arena and do it safely? Can they all be tested with a nasal swab on match day? ”
Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk told the Financial Post he believes fans will return to his arena by February and has established a “safe seating plan” with 6,000 people in the Canadian Tire Center. with 17,000 places.
Foley believes the NHL will play a 48 or 56 game season, which wouldn’t be unprecedented. The NHL has played a 48-game season twice, both due to owners’ lockouts, with the season starting July 19, 2013 and July 20, 1995. The Stanley Cup was awarded on June 24 in the two cases.
We won’t see a Stanley Cup final in September next season, like we did in 2020, Foley says. The owner of the Golden Knights has insisted that the Cup will have to be distributed towards the end of June, due to the Summer Olympics, which are set to begin on July 23, 2021. NBC is the television rights holder for the NHL and the Olympics in the United States.
Although clearly there is still a lot to decide.