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Could Canadian NHL Teams Be Required To Play 2021 In The USA?

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The Public Health Agency of Canada says that teams must follow provincial protocol.

Edmonton Oilers v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

The Edmonton Oilers (and the six other clubs in Canada) might be headed south of the border for the 2021 NHL season.

I was planning on hearing from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sometime yesterday about a return to play in 2021. When that got kicked to Friday, I wondered if something had come up. Hours ago, we find out that the NHL hasn’t reached an agreement with clubs in Canadian provinces on a return to play, which is a pretty significant development.

That’s a hell of a wrench thrown into for a league that’s trying to get back up and running in less than a month. The solution that’s being passed around is even crazier than the NHL not having all their ducks in a row: having the Canadian clubs play in the States. This would likely also scuttle the proposed “Canadian Division”, otherwise known as the temporary realignment for 2021 that would keep 7 teams in Canada to avoid any cross-border travel during the Covid-19 pandemic.

HOW ARE WE HERE

I’m not going to argue that the NHL should even be playing right now; I’d rather argue that they absolutely shouldn’t. Covid cases are spiking all over the US and Canada right now, and the NHL doesn’t seem too keen on “bubbling up” like they did for the playoffs that began this past August. Even with all this in the back of your mind, you’ve got to ask yourself why this sort of thing didn’t get sorted out earlier. How are we supposedly less than a month away from the return of hockey and we don’t know whether or not seven of the clubs have places to play in their home cities?

So let’s play along and suggest that none of the NHL cities in Canada will be available for their respective clubs. Now where do seven teams play? Are there seven cities who can host seven NHL clubs? What are you going to do, stick the Jets in Atlanta again? The Canadiens in Kansas City? Do the Senators pick up and play in whatever building the Islanders aren’t using that night?

And if they can, how does it all come together in a few short weeks?

VERY ON-BRAND

This absolutely screams NHL. Like a draft lottery that has a placeholder team win, It’s got their fingerprints all over it.

Again, you can easily make the argument that teams really shouldn’t be playing during a global pandemic. It’s a way easier argument to make compared to having seven franchises from Canada find temporary homes in the USA because NHL teams need to flout the country’s health agency in order to play.

But shouldn’t this have been taken care of already? Didn’t anyone know that this was going to be a problem a month, four months, or two weeks ago?