All-Canadian NHL Division a great idea

One good thing about COVID-19? Not to be too flippant here, but the global pandemic has pushed the National Hockey League into a corner — and it might turn out to be great for Canadian hockey fans.

The powers-that-be trying to figure out a scenario to run the 2020-21 NHL season have come up with a suggestion that — because the Canada-U.S. border is still closed to non-essential travel — all seven Canadian teams play in one division, and play strictly among themselves until playoff time.

The biggest benefit of that, of course, is that it would greatly enhance the chances of a Canadian team winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1993, when Montreal Canadiens struck a blow for the Maple Leaf, maple syrup and the symbolic beaver.

Details on how the new, probably temporary team alignment might shake down have not been announced, but it seems probable that the Canadian division would play a regular schedule within the confines of our country, and then determine a ‘Canadian’ winner to play off against the other three divisional winners. 

That means, of course, that Canada would be guaranteed to have a team in the final four. 

The seven Canadian teams have made the final four of the Stanley Cup playoffs only 10 times since 2000 (a seven-per-cent success rate), the most recent being the Winnipeg Jets in 2017-18. 

The last time a team from Canada reached the Cup final was Vancouver Canucks in 2010-11.

Since most Canadian hockey fans cheer for Canadian teams, the interest in this all-Canadian concept should be high. 

Fans of the Leafs and Canadiens will never waver, and there is strong regional support for Vancouver in B.C., the Flames and Oilers in Alberta and the Jets on the Prairies. 

That leaves Ottawa, No. 2 in Ontario behind Toronto for fan affection; and No. 2 in the capital region, where fans have had a long emotional affiliation with the Habs until the Senators came along 28 years ago.

The Senators are building what could soon be a Stanley Cup contender. 

They may not challenge for Canadian division laurels, but their time is coming. They had three first-round picks in the recent amateur draft and selected German star Tim Stuetzle at No. 3, big defenceman Jake Sanderson at No. 5, and Brandon Wheat King sniper Ridley Greig at No. 28. 

Off-season free agent signings of former Panther Evgeni Dadanov, and ex-Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray will also pay dividends.

In the end, the force-feeding of an all-Canadian division may turn out to be so popular the NHL might just decide to keep it after the pandemic is gone and life has returned to normal.

Slap Shots

• Headline at theonion.com: “Mike McCarthy Dismisses Talk Of Locker Room Turmoil After Cowboys Burn Mike McCarthy Effigy On Field”

• Another onion.com headline: “Michael Strahan Gives Passionate Speech About Being Black In America While Terry Bradshaw Patiently Waits to Discuss ‘Buick Keys To Success’”

• Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “Mike Tyson, 54, and Roy Jones Jr., 51, will stage an exhibition fight for charity Nov. 28 in Los Angeles without fans. Oxygen tanks ready!”

• Conor Russell, head pro at Portmarnock in Ireland, on public opposition to the government declaring a six-week ban on golf to help fight COVID-19: .”At end-of-day (petitions) could be as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike.”

• Casey Pratt of San Francisco’s KGO-TV, via Twitter: “If the 49ers stopped doing so many MRIs and X-rays, they wouldn’t have all these injuries.”
•  Tim Hunter of Everett’s KRKO Radio, on Dodgers 3B Justin Turner learning midway through Game 6 that he’d tested positive for COVID-19: “Then again, there are those who suggest the Houston Astros knew before he did.”

• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “At 43, Buccaneer QB, Tom Brady is getting up there. Now if someone is called with roughing the passer on Brady, there is a good chance they can be charged with elder abuse.”

• Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “A bettor plunked down $8,600 on No. 1 Clemson — at minus-1,000 odds — to beat Syracuse and collected $8.60 from FanDuel for his troubles. That’s like shelling out for the Kobe beef and Maine lobster just to get the after-dinner mint.

• Mike Hart of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, on the recent NFL matchup pitting 40-something QBs Tom Brady and Drew Brees:”If it goes to overtime, they’ll play shuffleboard to decide it.”

• Hall of Fame Joe Namath, to ESPN, on whether Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence might force a trade if he’s drafted by winless New York: “Anything could happen in this world, damn near anything — except for the Jets maybe making the playoffs this year.”

Care to comment? Email brucepenton2003@yahoo.ca.

By Bruce Penton

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