Montreal Canadiens left wing Jonathan Drouin (92) is defended by Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner (16) during third period NHL hockey action, in Toronto on October 5, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Montreal Canadiens left wing Jonathan Drouin (92) is defended by Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner (16) during third period NHL hockey action, in Toronto on October 5, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

NHLers weigh in on the idea of an all-Canadian division: ‘It would be pretty unique’

An all-Canadian division appears to indeed be on the table

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.”

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

NHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
In this week’s column, Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt shares information about a new company called B.C. Beef Producers Inc. that may interest local beef producers. (Lindsay Chung Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
RANCH MUSINGS: A regional brand of beef

David Zirnhelt writes about B.C. Beef Producers Inc., a new producer-owned company near Kamloops

Even masked curling for adults will not be allowed under new public health orders. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
New sport rules give out red cards to Quesnel leagues and clubs

New public orders even have implications on youth sports in the province

Dan Campbell was diagnosed with MS a few years ago. Friend and neighbour Hillary Shearing has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money so that Dan and his wife, Casey, can retrofit their house to improve Dan’s mobility. (Submitted Photo)
Community steps up to help Quesnel couple battling MS diagnosis through online fundraiser

A GoFundMe campaign has begun to help cover Dan and Casey Campbell’s costs to renovate their home

This map shows the location of Barkerville Gold Mines (BGM) Ltd.’s QR Mill and Bonanza Ledge Mine and proposed Cariboo Gold Project mine site near Wells, as well as the trucking route to take ore from the Cariboo Gold Project to the QR Mill. BGM announced Thursday, Dec. 3 that two of its contract employees tested positive for COVID-19 Dec. 2 as they arrived at the Wells site to begin their work rotation. (Photo courtesy of BGM)
Two contract employees at Wells mine site test positive for COVID-19

Barkerville Gold Mines says the workers have had no known interaction with the community of Wells

A snow moon rises over Mt. Cheam in Chilliwack on Feb. 8, 2020. Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 is Mountain Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Dec. 6 to 12

Mountain Day, Dewey Decimal System Day and Lard Day are all coming up this week

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
First Nations Leadership Council demands justice for victims of B.C. social worker

Union of BC Indian Chiefs calls actions of Robert Saunders ‘nothing short of complete depravity’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Montreal Alouettes’ Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a ‘laggard’ on homophobia in sports

Among females, 44 per cent of Canadians who’ve come out to teammates reported being victimized

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Information about the number of COVID-19 cases in Abbotsford and other municipalities poses a danger to the public, the Provincial Health Services Authority says. (Photo: Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News)
More city-level COVID-19 data would jeopardize public health, B.C. provincial health agency says

Agency refuses to release weekly COVID-19 case counts, citing privacy and public health concerns

Most Read