The NHL will adhere to local and national government regulations and is prepared to adapt during the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs as part of its effort to continue prioritizing the health and safety of players, fans, team and League personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If we can’t travel in Canada, either as among the provinces or from the U.S. to Canada and back, we’ll make whatever adjustments we have to do to get the playoffs completed,” Commissioner Bettman said Tuesday.
The Scotia North Division is made up of the seven Canada-based teams. The top four will qualify for the playoffs and compete within the division for the first two rounds to determine who will advance to the NHL semifinals.
[MUST SEE: Current NHL standings]
The winner will play one of the winners of the other three divisions — the MassMutual East Division, Discover Central Division and Honda West Division — which would necessitate NHL teams crossing the Canada-United States border for the first time this season, unless changes are necessary.
“The most important factor, as it has been either in the Return to Play (last season) or playing out this season, is the health and well-being of our players, (and) our other personnel in the communities in which we play,” Commissioner Bettman said. “Where we play is going to depend on COVID, obviously. We hope to keep everybody healthy. And it’s going to depend on government regulations in terms of where we’re going to be able to travel our players and our teams, and where we can’t. As we have done throughout for the last year-plus, we’re going to continually review and explore all of our options and maintain the flexibility to do whatever we have to do with what we’re confronted with. I think you’ve seen that throughout this season.”
Last season, the NHL playoffs took place in hub cities Edmonton and Toronto. This season, all games have been played in home markets. The San Jose Sharks played their first 12 games on the road because of health restrictions in Santa Clara County, California.
“We believe that the protocols we have in place have been effective particularly when they are adhered to,” Commissioner Bettman said. “Our players and other team personnel have been sensational for the most part. We believe that we will complete the regular season and get into the playoffs.”