As the NHL's 2020-21 season moves into the home stretch before the post-season, questions have begun to be asked about what exactly that post-season will look like.
It was August of last year that the league convened in two playoff bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton, playing out one of the most bizarre championship tournaments we've seen. This time around, with the NHL's 31 teams playing out of their own arenas, it appears the 2021 iteration could look more like the playoffs fans have been accustomed to in the past.
That is the hope, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, though it remains to be seen what the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic look like by the time that post-season arrives — particularly in Canada.
"We know what the situation is across the country — cases are rising, some places worse than others. From what I can tell right now, the plan is still to have the Canadian teams that make the playoffs play in their own cities," Friedman said Saturday during Hockey Night in Canada's Headlines segment.
"However, if there is a situation where we do need to consider a bubble, it is the likely scenario that the four teams that make the playoffs would go to a bubble in the United States."
The continued closure of the Canada-U.S. border has impacted a number of Canadian teams already, with the Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays both playing out of Florida for the time being, unable to travel back and forth to regularly face American teams.
The same concern could apply to Canadian teams facing American teams in a playoff series, but the hope is the situation changes by the time the 2021 playoffs are set to begin.
"Again, the hope right now is to have the four Canadian teams play in their cities," Friedman said. "However, if there is a bubble, it's likely going to be in the U.S."
Friedman added that it sounds like the league's three American divisions would see their teams play out of their own cities during the playoffs, with the U.S. currently in a different situation in regards to vaccination levels and permitted attendance.