NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said he expects the NHL team in Canada to play home games this season.
“Based on our discussions (with provincial health authorities) over the past week, as well as our correspondence over the last 24 hours, we believe we are aligned and agree on the terms that each of our Canadian franchises may begin to play in their own buildings for the start of the 2020-21 NHL season, ”Daly said in a statement Thursday.
The NHL season is scheduled to begin Jan. 13 after the NHL and NHLPA finalized an agreement Sunday to host a 56-game season that includes playoffs that last July to award the Stanley Cup.
The season will be very unusual in at least one respect: There will be four divisions – North, South, East and West – and all play will be within them through the first two rounds of the playoffs to minimize travel and the potential for coronavirus to disrupt season.
The North Division contains only the seven Canadian teams – Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg. These teams do not have to cross the border between the United States and Canada, which will remain closed for non-essential travel until at least January 21st.
The league provides the opportunity to play games in neutral locations if necessary. Final details on where the Canadian teams will play await until there are agreements with federal and provincial health officials.
The NHL ended last season in bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, with players, coaches and staff isolated from the public and virus-tested daily.
As for the divisions, Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington and all three New York teams are in the East; Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Nashville and Tampa Bay are in the center; and Arizona, Anaheim, Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota, St. Louis, San Jose and Vegas are in the West.
ESPN’s Emily Kaplan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.