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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed that the league will undergo some considerations for the possible ‘bubble’ games that will happen next season. (Photo : Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed that the league would undergo some considerations for the possible ‘bubble’ games that will happen next season.

The last NHL season felt the weight of the coronavirus impact. The league commenced the regular season on October 2, 2019, but it was stopped mid-way due to a five-month hiatus from the coronavirus pandemic. It should have ended on September 28 this year, but the game calendar has been shuffled.

According to The Maccabi USA Sports Show, Bettman said several changes are already put into new thought at the start of the NHL 2020-2021 season. As the pandemic continues to affect numerous sporting events, the NHL looks forward to the ‘new normal’ competition. 

Most likely, NHL will shift to a possible arrangement, including the addition of a Canadian division, to restrict team travels in Canada and the United States.

As per ESPN reporter Greg Wyshynski, restrictions have become tighter now in select areas. It now opened windows to establish building hockey bubbles and hub cities intended to house a concentrated population of players and sports personnel.

The North American border of the United States and Canada further burdened the scenario. 

In the NBA, the Toronto Raptors was the only team based in Canada. Before, the visiting team would fly to Scotiabank Arena, formerly known as Air Canada Centre, in Ontario for the NBA game. Now, it could not be done anymore.

To put into perspective, the visitation will jeopardize both teams at a high risk of contracting the virus. That prompted Raptor’s president Masai Ujiri to move the turf of the Canadian-based squad to Tampa, Florida, for the next season. He stated that the Raptors could come back to Canada any time, given that it would already be safe.

In the NHL, players and team owners shared the same desire for host-city playing. It will also steer away from the long waiting time in the bubble preparation.

The NHL had the highest number of Canada-based teams in all the US-situated sports leagues. It consisted of seven teams in Canada.

“If everything stays the way it is, we’re probably going to have a Canadian division and realign in the U.S., and we’re trying to focus on dealing with all of those challenges,” Bettman said. 

Bettman explained that the US-based teams would be split into three divisions, and each division will have eight teams. 

In a tweet by TSN Insider Pierre Lebrun about the proposed lineup, the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals will be included in the first division.

The Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, and Tampa Bay Lightning will belong to the second division.

Lastly, the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, and Vegas Golden Knights will complete the lineup for the last American division.

The fourth division will comprise all-Canadian teams of Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and Ottawa Senators. 

There is still no final date for the season-opener, but Insider Elliotte Friedman revealed that the NFL plans to start on January 13 for a proposed 56-game schedule. 

It was also confirmed that the Seattle Kraken will make its debut in the Pacific division to supplant the Arizona Coyotes, who will now hop to the Central division.

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