The NHL is looking to temporarily realign its divisions for the 2020-21 season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In an interview with The Maccabi USA Sports Show on Tuesday, commissioner Gary Bettman revealed that the league's realignment will likely feature a Canadian division as a result of border restrictions between the United States and Canada.
"There are a lot of things we have to do to return to play," Bettman said. "For us to return to play, we're not going to play 82 games, obviously, and we have travel issues because of the restrictions at the border between Canada and the U.S. You can't go back and forth, so we're actually going to have to realign.
"If everything stays the way it is, we're probably going to have to have a Canadian division and realign in the U.S., and we're trying to focus on dealing with all of those challenges."
Any type of realignment would require approval from the NHL Board of Governors. The proposed Canadian division would feature the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, and Winnipeg Jets -- the seven Canadian franchises.
In addition, the 24 teams based in the United States would have eight teams in three separate divisions. According to TSN's Pierre LeBrun, the divisions would be as follows:
- Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals
- Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, and Tampa Bay Lightning
- Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, and Vegas Golden Knights
Bettman also stated that the league's start date and number of games continues to be discussed.
"We're still a work in progress," Commissioner Bettman said. "There's much to be determined."
The league and NHL Players' Association continues to engage in dialogue regarding the format of the season along with the length of training camp and COVID-19 protocols. The NHL is hoping to have a full 82-game season in the 2021-22 campaign, which will feature the expansion Seattle Kraken joining the Pacific Division.