Claude Julien said a division of teams from Canada would be “extremely competitive” if the NHL were to use it during the 2020-21 season.
“First of all, I’m not going to lie, I’m going to miss playing games in the States. There’s good rivalries there as well,” the Montreal Canadiens coach told the NHL @TheRink podcast Thursday. “… There is a part of it you lose, but at the same time, as you mentioned, growing up in Canada and being a Canadian, there is excitement there because it’s different, it’s short-term, could be just for a year if it happens.”
The Canada-United States border is closed to non-essential travel due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it is unknown when that restriction would be able to be lifted.
The NHL season is targeted to begin Jan. 1, 2021. A division of teams from Canada would include the Canadiens, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets. Of those teams, only the Senators did not play in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers last season.
“The thing that I’m looking at the most now, as a coach living in the present, is how competitive that would be because most of the teams, I would say, with very few exceptions, are all teams that feel they are competitive and feel they should be playoff teams,” Julien said. “There’s going to be a pretty good battle there I think moving forward if that ever falls into place. That’s where we’re all sitting back and saying, ‘We better be ready for this short season if it does happen and if we do end up in a Canadian division because it’ll be extremely competitive.'”
The 24 NHL teams in the United States would likely be put into three divisions based on geography. A schedule has not been determined.
On Wednesday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that even if teams could cross the border, the issue of quarantine remains.
“If you’re playing a regular schedule of games, you can’t quarantine players for 14 days as you’re moving in and out of the country, which is why, among the other issues that are going to impact a possible season, we literally would have to realign and create a situation where maybe the teams in Canada only play each other, and we have to realign the way all of our teams are playing competitively,” the Commissioner said.