Mitch Marner was asked recently about the possibility of the NHL going with an all-Canadian division next season.
The league finished its pandemic-delayed 2019-20 campaign with tightly-controlled bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton to protect against the spread of COVID-19, but with the coronavirus showing no signs of slowing down and the border with the United States still closed to non-essential travel, a seven-team circuit north of the 49th parallel seemed likely.
“It would definitely be interesting,” Marner, a star winger with the Toronto Maple Leafs, said last month. “We’ve got to be ready for whatever happens.”
Well, commissioner Gary Bettman indicated this week the league is exploring the idea of temporary realignment in 2020-21.
And an all-Canadian division appears to indeed be on the table.
“We’re not going to move all seven Canadian franchises south of the 49th parallel … so we have to look at alternative ways to play,” Bettman said Tuesday as part of a virtual panel discussion during the 2020 Paley International Council Summit. “While crossing the U.S.-Canadian border is an issue, we’re also seeing within the United States limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states.
“It’s again part of having to be flexible.”
Bettman added the league, which is working closely with the NHL Players’ Association, is contemplating the possibility of a reduction from the usual 82-game schedule and the use of temporary hubs where teams would play a fixed number of games in the same location and then return home for a period of time before resuming action.
It remains to be seen if Canadian clubs would set up in a hub or travel to individual cities, but if the Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks wind up grouped together, fans could be in for a treat.
“The Canadian teams are quite strong,” Montreal head coach Claude Julien said in October. “It might be a very competitive division. We know that Ottawa is being rebuilt — that doesn’t mean they aren’t competitive — but the other teams all believe in their chance to make the playoffs.
“People are likely to see very exciting and very competitive hockey.”
Six of Canada’s seven franchises took part in the summer resumption of play, with only the Senators on the outside looking in. There’s optimism in each city for whenever the league gets going — the NHL continues to target a Jan. 1 start date — and the temperature between rivals could be turned up with more games against the same opponents.
“It would be pretty cool, especially for Canadian hockey fans,” Canucks captain Bo Horvat said. “It’ll be heated and it’ll be some good hockey if it happens.”
It also doesn’t hurt that some of the game’s biggest names — including Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, Marner and Auston Matthews with Toronto, Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson and Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine — could be pitted against each other more often.
“It would be a cool experience,” Marner said. “We’ve just got to be ready for whatever happens.”
Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa usually play in the Atlantic Division, Winnipeg is in the Central, and Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary are in the Pacific.
Senators forward Connor Brown, who was acquired from the Leafs in the summer of 2019, said he wouldn’t mind facing his old club a little more often.
“It would be interesting,” he said. “It’s all speculation, but it would be different.”
Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher added that, like the bubble concept used during the restart, players have to be prepared to adapt on the fly.
“If that is the case, an all-Canadian division, I think it would be pretty unique,” he said. “Pretty neat you to get to see those other teams a little bit more and have an appreciation for what they do. And at the same time, there’s a little bit of pride involved when you’re playing for your Canadian division.
“I’m sure everyone would have a little bit of motivation.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2020.
-With files from Gemma Karstens-Smith in Vancouver.
Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter
Devils’ Jack Hughes won’t be released to Team USA for world juniors – Sportsnet.ca
“We need Jack to concentrate on the Devils,” Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald told NHL.com. “The silver lining for Jack [and all of our young players] during this pandemic was a lengthy opportunity to gain strength and weight to compete in the NHL when we start.”
The first-overall pick from the 2019 NHL Draft scored 21 points in 61 games as a rookie last season. Hughes played for the U.S. at the 2019 world juniors where he had four points in four games.
The Devils were one of seven teams that did not return to play this summer and the team has not played a game since a March 10 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
USA Hockey announced its preliminary roster for the 2021 world juniors Monday, which includes top prospects Jake Sanderson, Cole Caufield and Nick Robertson, among others. The team will hold its selection camp at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich., from Dec. 6-13.
Insider Trading: Could there be a number of outdoor games with fans? – TSN
Why have Alexis Lafreniere and Jack Hughes been denied the chance to play in the World Juniors by their respective clubs? Could there be a number of outdoor games with fans when the season starts? TSN Hockey Insiders Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun and Frank Seravalli discuss this and more.
Will first overall pick and defending MVP at the World Juniors Alexis Lafrenière be freed up to play for Canada this Christmas?
Darren Dreger: The New York Rangers made the decision that they will not be releasing Alexis Lafrenière, the first overall pick in the 2020 Draft, to Team Canada and the World Junior Championship. They want him to continue to train in the New York area as we reported on Tuesday. He’s been doing that, staying with family members since the beginning of November. They want him entirely focused on his first NHL camp. Similar thinking by Tom Fitzgerald, the general manager of the New Jersey Devils, with Jack Hughes. USA Hockey has inquired. With the delays between the NHL and NHLPA, Team USA wondering if Jack Hughes can take another run at the World Junior Championship, but Fitzgerald wants Jack Hughes absolutely dialed in on his second NHL camp. A bit more of loose scenario with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Nick Robertson. So Team USA could get a boost from Nick Robertson, but it’s all dependent on what’s happening with the National Hockey League. If the NHL is up and running, Robertson stays in Toronto. If it’s not, then he will go to Edmonton by the middle of this month.
A full season without any fans in the stands would be crushing to league revenues. But, some fans are trying to be creative on how to bring in fans safely?
Pierre LeBrun: Creative is a good way to put it, Gino. Believe it or not, but I’m just passing this along. The Pittsburgh Penguins for example have informed the league that they would be ready to start the opening month of the regular season in outdoor games. The Boston Bruins looking to play multiple games at Fenway Park if it’s feasible and if local health authorities are OK with it. We also have the Carolina Hurricanes who might want to have a game or two by their own refrigeration system. The LA Kings have the MLS stadium in California later in the season if health authorities allow it, but would like to play a whole bunch of games, and there’s other teams as well that have told the league we’d like to play outdoor games. Why? Because with the fans physically distanced, obviously you can get some gate revenue. That’s what this is all about. The NHL has not officially responded. I think right now they see the pros and the cons to it. By the way, none of the seven Canadian teams at this point, I believe, think it’s feasible or of interest to them. So we’ll see where this goes.
Frank Seravalli: The key to having these games being played safely, will be testing. And the big difference between next season and finishing off last year in the hubs, is that teams are responsible for securing their own testing for players and staff members. Let’s just say there’s been a lot of shopping going on for NHL teams when it comes to testing because it’s both expensive and they’re trying to find the most efficient way to get their test results. In talking to a number of teams today, I’m told the average price that teams are paying for COVID-19 tests are somewhere between $125 to $150 USD per test. That adds up, for a 50-member travelling party, that’s $6,000 to $7,000 a day. If you’re multiplying that by seven days a week, you can see $45,000 a week is a lot of money. In addition to that not every team is as lucky as the Carolina Hurricanes have been with their testing site getting their results just an hour up the road. Some teams, especially Western Canadian teams, have had to fly their test results across the country to Canada in order to get those in 24 hours. No one wants to skimp on the testing. They all recognize how important this is in the process, but still something teams are keeping an eye on.
We still don’t know when the NHL season will start or when camps will open up, but are players starting to gather in their team cities to be ready just in case?
Dreger: Yes. I would say more or less, but it depends on what team we’re talking about here. An interesting group of players gathered in Arizona. Auston Matthews, of course, put together a skate there. Connor McDavid participated. Other NHLers said to include the likes of Anthony Duclair and Matt Dumba. At times there were 10, maybe 15 players of NHL calibre, AHL calibre on the ice at one time. Connor McDavid has since returned to Canada this week, but players are doing whatever they can do to stay in shape when the dates come in from the NHL.
Russell Westbrook's Agent Initiated Resumption Of Trade Talk With Wizards – RealGM.com
Russell Westbrook’s agent, Thad Foucher, helped restart talks between the Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets this week, according to Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN.
The two sides hadn’t discussed a Westbrook for John Wall trade for several weeks, but talks moved quickly this week.
Both Westbrook and Wall were motivated for a trade to the other team.
Westbrook also sought a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder during the 2019 offseason.
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