Now that the Stanley Cup has been awarded and the entry draft has been completed, the NHL has its sights focused on the 2020-21 season.
We know that the league’s goal is to kick off the season at the beginning of January, but, otherwise, the rest is speculation. We have no real clue what 2020-21 will look like or how long it’ll be or if there’ll be some kind of bubble like the one we saw used for the playoffs this season.
One idea that has been floated out is an all-Canadian division. This would feature the seven Canadian teams playing each other all season as a way to navigate around the Canada-U.S. border being closed due to COVID-19.
Imagine the NHL opts to roll with an all-Canadian division and they kick off the 2020-21 season in the Rocky Mountains. That’s something the league is apparently considering, according to an anonymous source who spoke with the Toronto Star.
According to an industry source who requested anonymity in order to speak freely, Alberta’s Lake Louise — with its famous Rocky Mountain backdrop — has been discussed internally as a possible location for opening day.
The league — which has staged outdoor games on New Year’s Day since 2008 — is going full throttle to prepare for a potential New Year’s Day launch, canvassing teams on COVID protocols, the possibility of limited live crowds in certain cities, and the availability of hotel rooms close to arenas.
Given 2020-21’s unique landscape, hosting an NHL game at Lake Louise makes more sense than it would under normal circumstances. You wouldn’t be able to build a big makeshift stadium for thousands of spectators at Lake Louise, but, since there wouldn’t be a need to do so due to COVID-19 restrictions, the NHL could potentially host a game at this location for a TV spectacle.
The 2021 Winter Classic is currently scheduled to be played on Jan. 1 between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues at Target Field in Minneapolis. The league could feasibly execute an outdoor game in Minnesota and have another all-Canadian outdoor game at Lake Louise in order to make a big splash on opening day.
I can’t think of a cooler outdoor game than a Battle of Alberta at Lake Louise. There’s obviously some logistics in the way, like it being right in the middle of Rocky Mountain winter tourist season, but hopefully this ends up happening.