The Ontario and Manitoba governments have still not signed off on the NHL's return to play plan and safety protocols with less than a week before the puck drops on the new NHL season, but deputy commissioner Bill Daly is optimistic those approvals will come.
"As I understand it, everything is on track to get the appropriate approvals," Daly said in an appearance on Lead Off on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. "We certainly hope that's the case."
While the NHL successfully returned last summer in playoff bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton, the plan to play the 2020-21 season in teams' home cities has been much more complicated. As a result, the new NHL campaign will only be 56 games and will limit teams to playing games only against others in their division. To help ease those challenges, the NHL redrew its divisions to include a new North division featuring all seven Canadian teams. However, the five provinces with NHL teams still needed to approve the NHL's protocols -- which British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec have since done.
On Tuesday, Toronto mayor John Tory said he is on board with the Maple Leafs playing home games in the city, while Manitoba's acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, Dr. Jazz Atwal, said that the province is "confident things will move ahead as planned" when asked about the Jets.
"I know that the people at the Senators and Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment are working very hard, diligently every day, both with the local health officials in Ottawa and Toronto but also with the provincial health authorities to make sure all of their concerns are addressed adequately," Daly said. "So I have every expectation we'll be fine in both provinces."
The Maple Leafs drop the puck on the new season on Jan. 13 with a home game against the Montreal Canadiens while the Jets open their season on Jan. 14 with a home game against the Calgary Flames.