The NHL has made their return to play plans public after months of negotiations with the NHLPA, but they are not done negotiating. They still have to negotiate with provincial health officials to see if they can play games in each province with teams travelling between provinces. For that to happen travel and gathering bans would have to have exemptions placed on them and those exemptions could prove difficult to obtain.
The British Columbian government has already said that they will not allow teams to enter BC to play and while the Manitoban government has made exemptions for practices, there is no word on exemptions for games. Same with Alberta whose hospitals are over-capacity although Jason Kenney has shown himself to not care about anything but making himself look like he is not the Grinch. The other provinces are hard to say as well and could go either way. But it looks like the Canadian Division could be for naught if all the provinces decide that games cannot happen in their territories.
The whole return to play plan could end up being a disaster. As we have seen with the MLB and NFL, the moment you are not in a bubble, the moment things become harder to control. The more you let people in and out of a protected area, the more that people will push what they should be doing. If they have kids going to school, that expands their risk. It becomes a calculation of what can be handled.
We have seen moments where it is clear that leagues are just holding it together. We have seen the effects of COVID-19 on players play after they have recovered. Running a league through a pandemic means that you are putting so many people at risk of getting sick and never being the same again. It is a risk that might not be worth it.
Can the NHL run a successful 56 game season? It remains to be seen. The NFL only has a 17 game season to get through and they’ve struggled. With the winter wave being worse partially because of the dry air, so playing in arenas should be great.
No matter what happens, we are less than a month away from NHL hockey happening and that will be seen as a good thing to some. I for one look forward to extolling the virtues of Connor Hellebuyck again.