Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Where Do They Play?

I was reading Elliotte Friedman's always-informative 31 Thoughts article today on the Sportsnet website, and he made reference to the North Division's playoff quandary for whomever finds themselves as the winner of the division through the postseason. As you know, Canadian teams are not heading south when it comes to playing this season, and fans in this country have yet to be allowed back into arenas to watch games due to the pandemic. So when one of the seven Canadian teams win the North Division, where do they play home playoff games?

It's an interesting conundrum since the NHL will certainly ask the winner of the North Division to travel to the US where the other three divisions are located, but where would the best place to play if you're the Canadian team who earns that right? Elliotte wrote the following:
Indeed, a Toronto-to-Buffalo move likely wouldn't be ideal for a number of reasons, but it becomes a little more tenuous when you consider that Colorado may win their division which would force one of Vancouver, Edmonton, or Calgary to look farther south than perhaps they wanted to originally go.

When you consider that the teams from the Eastern Conference all play along or near the eastern seaboard, logic says that having the Western Conference Canadian team closer to them would be ideal for everyone. Of course, that doesn't take into a semifinal matchup where Vegas or Colorado seem poised to be in the Western Conference Final and cross-country flights would be involved to which Elliotte alluded. Would it make more sense to have the Canadian team keep their bags packed, play in a place like Glendale first where they're conveniently located for most of the Western Division teams, and then move to another, more eastern-based arena for the Stanley Cup Final?

With respect to the move across the border, one will have to assume that the Canadian teams will be chartering flights as they do now to escape the quarantine process in each province mandated by those provinces' health guidelines. There may still be a quarantine process between the two countries - Canada and the US - but there may be a shortened window of time if the rumours of a reduced quarantine time for the trade deadline holds true. The idea would be that the NHL would use that same procedure to fly the Canadian team down to their destination arena, quaratine for the recommended time, and then resume the Western Conference Final once the quarantine period has been fulfilled.

Once the team has established a safe return to hockey in the US, travelling to a second arena-turned-home shouldn't be an issue as every other NHL team will have done the same throughout the season and playoffs.

That begs the question, then, as to where the Canadian teams should and would play if given a chance to choose. If we're looking at the recent NHLPA Players' Surveys, it seems there are two winners when it comes to atmosphere given that some NHL arenas in the US are allowing fans to wathc games. The 2018-19 survey showed:
Depending on whether Vegas is in the Western Conference Final, it would appear the best place to play for atmosphere if you're a player is in Nashville which would be a good option for most of the Canadian teams. That being said, Chicago is also a good choice for atmosphere assuming that the North Division winner goes there, so there are three pretty solid places to play if the Canadian teams need a place to stay on their Stanley Cup journeys.

Personally, I'd want to play in Nashville in June if I were given the chance. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Chicago - far from it, in fact, considering I was there in June - but Nashville would be where I'd go if the option were open. The Hilton Hotel next to the Bridgestone Arena is beautiful, there are a ton of great restaurants for delivery near the hotel, and the weather in Nashville in June is great. If the players are going to call a city home for a few weeks, Nashville seems like a great home away from home.

What Western Conference arena would you choose? Sound off in the comments and we can discuss why it won't be Buffalo!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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