During an appearance on KSHP Radio Las Vegas’ Vegas Hockey Hotline, Golden Knights owner Bill Foley dropped a bombshell.
When asked about his team facing Nate Schmidt, who was just traded to fellow Pacific Division squad, the Canucks, Foley responded: “Yeah, but they’re going to be playing in the Canadian division.”
“I think they’re going to play a Canadian division,” he added when pressed on it. “I don’t think they’re going to cross the border.”
It’s long been rumoured this could happen. The United States-Canada border has been closed to non-essential travel for months and on Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated he’s not planning on changing that any time soon.
“We have committed to keeping Canadians safe and we keep extending the border closures because the States is not in a place where we would feel comfortable reopening those borders,” he said in an interview with a Winnipeg radio station.
“We will continue to make sure that Canadian safety is top of mind when we move forward. We see the cases in the United States and elsewhere around the world, and we need to continue to keep these border controls in place.”
Back on Oct. 6, the NHL and the NHLPA jointly announced a target date of Jan. 1, 2021, for the next season. While it’s a date circled on the calendar in the league’s office, it’s in pencil and not ink. Foley doesn’t see it happening that soon and thinks a Feb. 1 start date is more rational — but one that must end by June 30 due to the NHL’s broadcasting rights with NBC who also airs the Olympics.
“If we play 56 games in four months, that’s a lot of games,” he said regarding it probably being truncated season. “There’s not going to be a break. There’s going to be a lot of back-to-backs. In theory, we’re going to play four games a week to get this season done. Maybe even more — five games a week.”
That’s why, despite the team’s salary cap issues, he made it a point that the Golden Knights keep both Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner between the pipes. With the addition of Alex Pietrangelo this week, Vegas is above the salary cap and will need to shave salary to be compliant by the start of the season — which, to circle back, was the main driving force behind the shipping of Schmidt to the Canucks.
Regardless of the start date and the number of games, his hope is that fans will get to see this squad in person.
“If we’re not playing in front of fans I don’t know how a lot of teams can make it, including us. It’s going to be very difficult. You have to make a serious financial commitment to fund the team if you’re not playing in front of fans,” he said. “I believe Gary Bettman’s not going to be having us fly all around if playing in empty arenas. There’s going to be another plan and we’ll see.”
And if there are fans, Foley has a prediction on how things will turn out: “If we play in front of fans, I don’t think we can be stopped. I think we’re winning.”