NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he expects the NHL’s teams in Canada to be able to play home games this season.
“On the basis of our discussions (with Provincial Health Authorities) in the past week, as well as our exchange of correspondence over the last 24 hours, we believe we are aligned and in agreement on the conditions on which each of our Canadian franchises can begin 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 completed a deal Sunday to hold a 56-game season that would include playoffs lasting into July to award the Stanley Cup.
The season will be highly 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 the coronavirus to disrupt the season.
The North Division contains only the seven Canadian teams — Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg. Those teams would not have to cross the U.S.-Canada border, which remains closed to non-essential travel until at least Jan. 21.
The league is allowing for the possibility of playing games at neutral sites if needed. Final details on where the Canadian teams will play are pending until there are agreements with federal and provincial health officials.
The NHL completed last season in bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, with players, coaches and staff isolated from the general public and virus-tested daily.
As far as 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 Central; 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.