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

Labour Minister Harry Bains addressing Surrey Board of Trade digital meeting Friday. (Screen shot)
Labour Minister says Surrey businesses’ resilience through pandemic ‘impressive’

‘Surrey’s effort in bending the curve has been among the best,’ Harry Bains says

Volunteers from Semiahmoo Secondary joined with members of the Lower Mainland Green Team and the White Rock and South Surrey Naturalists Wednesday to remove invasive plants from White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park. (Contributed photo)
Students, volunteers remove invasive plants from White Rock’s Ruth Johnson Park

Day-long project a collaboration between city, Lower Mainland Green Team

South Surrey’s Kirk Arsenault has started a new company, Str8laced, that sells cleat wraps that aim to keep athletes’ shoes from coming untied during games and practices. (Contributed photo)
South Surrey sports equipment entrepreneur tying up loose ends before Alberta move

Str8laced wraps keep laces from coming loose in the middle of play, says Kirk Arsenault

Raj Singh Toor (left) with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudea after an official apology for the treatment of Komagata Maru passengers in 1914. (Contributed photo)
Request made for City of White Rock to honour Komagata Maru passengers

Raj Singh Toor confident city will rename ‘street, park or city asset’ in honour of 1914 tragedy

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

The driver of a pickup truck failed to stop after knocking down a wooden fence on March 3, 2021. (screen grab)
VIDEO: Footage catches pick-up driver smash fence on Abbotsford/Langley border

Driver came forward after video circulated on social media

Kevin Haughton is the founder/technologist of Courtenay-based Clearflo Solutions. Scott Stanfield photo
Islander aims Clearflo clean drinking water system at Canada’s remote communities

Entrepreneur $300,000 mobile system can produce 50,000 litres of water in a day, via solar energy

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Most Read