By Doug Kennedy
The federal and provincial governments announced on Christmas Eve that the NHL can have a Canadian division this coming season that will not cross the border, starting on Jan. 13.
Fifty-six games, between Jan. 13 and May 21, with seven teams in this division, is taking us back in history to the original six playing for the Stanley Cup each year. One good thing about this is that Canada will have a team in the final four, which has not happened for a few years.
The last team to make the final four was the Winnipeg Jets in 2018, when they defeated the favoured Nashville Predators in seven games in the quarter-final. Unfortunately, they ran into the Las Vegas Golden Knights hot goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, in the semi-finals.
So many times when the teams are close, it comes down to goaltending. With a shorter season this year, goalies are going to be more important than ever.
Only four out of the seven teams will make the playoffs this year. This makes every game important. Teams will play each other up to 10 times in this short time frame, so it is going to be really intense, which is great for the fans.
Calgary signed free agent goalie Jacob Markstrom, which could help them gets in to playoffs. One of the most exciting things we will get to watch is Connor McDavid in prime time for three months. And what about Montreal goalie Carey Price, if he gets on a roll? The Jets might be short on defenceman, but have some great forwards. Vancouver really improved over the last couple of years. The Maple Leafs have a strong returning line-up coming back for this season. With DJ Smith coaching Ottawa, they will work hard every night, but will probably finish seventh.
To me, the other six spots are up for grabs. It should be a fun season to watch. This actually could be a chance for a Canadian team to challenge for the Stanley Cup. COVID-19 could affect the outcome. Let’s hope not.
There will be a lot of Canadian pride on the line with this new division.
2020 is a year for the record books in all sports. Twenty-five, 50 or 100 years from now, people will read about what happened to sports in 2020 and 2021 and find it hard to believe.