As the NHL continues to work through discussions with five different provincial health authorities about its plans to stage the upcoming season, a fallback option looms in the background.
The possibility of playing entirely in the United States.
Sources say that’s the likely outcome if agreements can’t be reached to make the all-Canadian Division a reality for 2020-21.
While there’s nothing concrete to indicate that the necessary government bodies won’t eventually sign off on the NHL’s plans, that had yet to happen as of late Thursday afternoon.
The NHL would prefer to have each of its seven Canadian teams based out of its own city and arena for a 56-game regular season. The travel would be limited to within the country and would therefore be unaffected by any border issues.
However, the plan requires approval from health authorities in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. They need to be comfortable with the league’s protocols, which have been an ongoing point of discussion with the NHL Players’ Association.
Should that fail to happen, the NHL is willing to have the Canucks, Flames, Oilers, Jets, Maple Leafs, Senators and Canadiens play out of the U.S., if necessary.
That would follow what has happened in other sports. MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays were forced to play home games out of Buffalo last summer while the NBA’s Toronto Raptors have relocated to Tampa for the upcoming season.