It’s been assumed for some time that the coming NHL season would include a seven-team Canadian division to eliminate cross-border travel. Speaking on Tuesday, commissioner Gary Bettman all but confirmed that to be the case.
“There are a lot of things we have to do to return to play. 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,” Bettman told NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti.
“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.”
So the Canadian division would be straightforward, but how will the three American divisions be aligned?
Sportsnet can confirm the league’s current proposal would break them down like this:
Boston-Buffalo-New Jersey-NY Islanders-NY Rangers-Philadelphia-Pittsburgh-Washington
Anaheim-Arizona-Colorado-Dallas-Los Angeles-Las Vegas-San Jose-St. Louis
It’s believed there is still some debate around St. Louis and Minnesota, and that this format is not yet set.
A Board of Governors’ call was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon to update the owners on negotiations with the players ahead of the 2020-21 season. The proposal for divisional realignments would still need to be approved by the players.
No start date for the new season has yet been confirmed, but on Monday Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the new target for the league was a 56-game season that would start on Jan. 13. The target date for playoff teams to report to training camp is Jan. 3, with the non-playoff teams coming a few days earlier.
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