Quebec has given the NHL the green light to start its season in the province, joining Alberta and British Columbia in allowing teams to once again dust off their skates.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Quebec Health Ministry confirmed that it had accepted the recommendations put forward by the five provinces with NHL teams and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The Ministry is allowing the start of training camp which began on Sunday and the return to play in mid-January, as long as everything goes smoothly.
The season itself will look very different, with the teams playing in an all-Canadian division.
The Habs will play teams out west nine times, and face off against Ottawa and Toronto 10 times.
Coach Claude Julien said this will change the dynamic, mimicking a “playoff format.”
“At the end of a game, there’s always a bit of animosity. But then you move on to the next team, so it’s forgotten. But this time, you’re playing the same team the next time around. I think there might be a little bit of intensity, a little bit of animosity.”
Julien said this new format may stoke the existing rivalries between Canadian teams and their fans.
“Whether it’s revenging a loss, or trying to continue a winning streak or whatever it is, there’s a lot of things that are going to happen with the schedule that will be a lot different from what we’re normally used to,” he said.
The travel too, will pose a new challenge for Montreal players.
“We’re in a division that is gonna be travelling the most of all the divisions in the league this year,” he said. “We’re going from one end of the country to the other.”
Not all teams will have to adapt to the amount of travel required to make this plan work. Julien gave the example of teams in the New York area who will be able to bus to each other easily.
“Normally in a regular season we probably go out west once a year,” Julien said. “So we’re going to have to also adapt and then be ready to face that kind of travel.”