The NHL’s all-Canadian Division could be unlikely after new Canada pilot project

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The NHL’s 2021 start date is still yet to be seen but there have been some interesting developments throughout the last few days. It started with Vegas Golden Knights owner, Bill Foley, releasing some information on a possible ‘Canadian division’.

“Yeah, but they’re going to be playing in the Canadian division this year.” Said Foley after being asked about facing former Golden Knight, Nate Schmidt, a lot next season.

This sparked many reports and a lot of reaction on social media, but could the possible division be headed on its way out as fast as it was introduced?

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On Thursday, the Government of Alberta, alongside the Government of Canada released plans on a pilot project for faster testing on international travellers. The plan states that international travellers will be tested once entering the country and will enter quarantine until the test results come back. If they come back negative, they’re free to leave quarantine as long as they agree to another test six or seven days after arrival into the country.

“The pilot project (..) will help inform decisions on new measures for international travel.” Said Health Canada in an email. The pilot project will begin on November 2nd at two entryways into Canada (both being in Alberta). If all goes well, the Government of Canada will likely move to have this testing in more of the country’s ports of entry, but it’s not known on how long it will take.

If this rapid testing method works, NHL teams would be able to get tested right after their flight and will likely know within the hour if they’ve tested positive for COVID-19.

It’s not known how long the Canadian and Alberta government will test this pilot project but with the uncertainty of everything right now, the NHL is unlikely to execute a plan until this pilot project has begun. Once that happens, the league can sit down with the Return-to-Play Committee and discuss a plan that works in-line with Canada’s protocols.

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“The (Canadian) Government is open to reviewing further proposals from the National Hockey League (NHL) that includes a comprehensive public health plan agreed to by the Government of Canada and obtaining written support from provincial or territorial public health officials.” Said Health Canada through an email.

According to Elliotte Friedman, the NHL has indicated that the “target date” for next season remains to be January 1st. However, Chris Johnston said on the Steve Dangle Podcast that he “expects the season to start on February 1st.” Obviously the target date isn’t set in stone but with the NBA looking to start their season on Christmas day, the NHL may try to start around the same time.

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Although the next couple of weeks will be the start of talks between the NHL and the NHLPA’s Return-to-Play Committee, it’s likely to be most important part of discussions. What happens with the pilot project in Alberta impacts the future of the NHL and what next season may look like.

These next few weeks may be quiet from the NHL’s side but once the domino falls, plans will start to shift into place and then we will have a better idea of when the next NHL season will start.