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Report: NHL could play solely in U.S. if all-Canadian division gets nixed

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The NHL is exploring the idea of playing all games in the United States if government and health authorities north of the border don't approve the league's plan for an all-Canadian division.

Holding the 2020-21 season entirely within the U.S. is the "likely outcome" if Canadian officials don't sign off on the current proposal, reports Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

There has been no indication that the relevant lawmakers and health experts won't ultimately consent to the idea of an all-Canadian division, but they hadn't done so by Thursday afternoon, Johnston added.

However, the Canadian government responded to the report several hours later, making it clear that NHL teams will not be exempt from provincial guidelines.

On a conference call Thursday, the NHL informed the seven teams based in Canada that they could be forced to play out of the United States, according to Postmedia's Bruce Garrioch.

The league is reportedly planning to group the Canadian teams together in order to limit travel and cross-border complications. However, the NHL first needs approval from the five provinces involved - Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.

Temporary relocation of Canadian teams to the U.S. amid the pandemic wouldn't be unprecedented. MLB's Toronto Blue Jays played their 2020 home games in Buffalo, and the NBA's Toronto Raptors will be based in Tampa for the upcoming campaign.

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