NHL exec Colin Campbell explains league’s schedule goals in Canada

Colin-Campbell

NHL executive Colin Campbell (John Locher/AP Photo)

NHL senior executive vice president Colin Campbell says the league would like to try to preserve as many full-capacity home games as possible for Canadian fans, but acknowledges other factors are at play in redoing the schedule during the current COVID-19 surge.

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“You’d like to give the fans the opportunity to go to as many games as they can. They’ve already been shortchanged in the last year and a half … shortchanged completely watching hockey here in Canada,” Campbell said in an interview on the Real Kyper and Bourne show on Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Friday.

“It’s a rite of passage to watch the world juniors this time of year for all young kids. I remember growing up watching it. Now, it’s cancelled. We’re trying to save as much as we can and delay it.”

The NHL postponed nine more games on Friday because of arena capacity issues in Canada — with teams being allowed anywhere from zero fans (Montreal Canadiens) to 50 per cent capacity (Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks) because of provincial rules.

The league is hoping restrictions are loosened as time passes, allowing for bigger crowds in the seven Canadian markets.

But the NHL has not postponed every game in Canada.

Two games hosted by the Toronto Maple Leafs — on Saturday against Ottawa and Jan. 5 against Edmonton — remain on the schedule after, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports, the NHL gave the Leafs a choice in whether those games would go ahead.

Television also is a factor.

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“There are so many factors to consider,” Campbell said. “Sportsnet, they need something on Saturday night. They need a telecast. I know the fans are getting shortchanged. but there’s got to be something for people to watch — a Canadian game.”

The previously scheduled Olympic break in February could be a natural time for games to be rescheduled in Canada after the league pulled out of the Beijing Games because of regular-season schedule disruptions.

“Obviously, (people) are disappointed they won’t be able to see best-on-best in the Olympics,” Campbell said. “The positive for us is we get three more weeks to fill with the games we’ve missed so far, so that’s going to help us greatly.”

But Campbell acknowledges there are plenty of complications.

For example, the league issued a rule this week that vaccinated players can return five days after testing positive if they are asymptomatic following new recommendations by the CDC in the United States — but that rule only applies if local health jurisdictions allow it.

Quebec has not gone down to a five-day isolation period yet.

“Teams are saying, ‘Now you’re changing rules in the middle of the game. Now it’s five (days isolation) not 10, what about Canada? We lose players for 10 days still, you guys lose players for five days. We want to delay it until we get our players back.’ It’s so convoluted. It’s tough to try to be fair to get the games in.”

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