With an all-Canadian division reportedly in jeopardy due to the country's COVID-19 protocols, the Ontario government hopes the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators can remain at home.
"I had a good conversation with the Leafs and the Senators this morning," Ontario’s minister of heritage, sport, tourism, and culture Lisa MacLeod said Friday, according to The Ottawa Suns' Bruce Garrioch.
"I think the option that they would prefer is to have the Canadian division," she continued. "The complications with that are you’re not just dealing with provincial health units, you’re also dealing with the local municipalities, and their health units."
The NHL is looking for ways to reduce travel amid the pandemic, and the league is reportedly exploring the possibility of playing all games in the United States next season if a Canadian division isn't possible. The seven Canadian teams would need to find new temporary homes south of the border.
MacLeod says her understanding is that the five provinces and seven Canadian cities involved would all need approval from the respective health units.
"If one Canadian city was unable to proceed then that would probably be a game-changer for an all-Canadian division," MacLeod added. "It’s important that we all understand where everybody else is at. That’s kind of an important conversation.
"For example, if six of the seven teams were in agreement, but the seventh wasn’t, that’s a concern for the league."
The NBA's Toronto Raptors will begin their season in Tampa Bay due to the Canada-United States border restrictions. The MLB's Toronto Blue Jays played their 2020 season in Buffalo for the same reason.
The NHL is aiming to begin the season on Jan. 13, and both the league and players prefer a 56-game schedule.