Edmonton Oilers chairman Bob Nicholson not a fan of proposed NHL format, gives update on World Juniors

The NHL is moving closer to returning to play, but the proposed format to complete the season isn’t a hit with everyone.

It’s expected that 24 teams would be divided into two hub cities. Based on points percentage, the Edmonton Oilers would be seeded fifth in the Western Conference and would take on the twelfth-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in a best-of-five play-in round.

“It’s certainly one that I don’t think is right,” said Oilers chairman Bob Nicholson on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer on Friday.

“We want to beat the teams in our division. Those are the big four-point games. Our rivalry is Calgary and Vancouver. We always look at it — let’s be in the top three in our division — you make the playoffs. That’s where we were headed.”

The timing for the restart remains in question, though, as it seems like training camps wouldn’t start until July at the earliest.

“It’s going to be step-by-step. We’re going to start with small pods with three of four players. They’ll get some staff around it. They’ll have to leave the arena. Another group will come in,” said Nicholson.

“If that all goes well, then we’ll get into a full-blown training camp and then into the competition.”

The Oilers have the support of the City of Edmonton and provincial government in a bid to be a hub city. They’re including weather and lifestyle perks as part of the bid.

“We’re in a competition. It’s like an Olympic bid. Vegas has a lot of great points. Vancouver has a lot of great points,” said Nicholson.

“Edmonton is a great spot to play, especially if you’re in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Temperatures in the mid-20s, our river valley, the golf courses. We have to see what they want to do with the players and how much they’re allowed outside the bubble. We’ll make things happen. First and foremost is to make sure there’s safety within that bubble.”

Nicholson is also a vice-president with the International Ice Hockey Federation. The 2021 World Juniors are scheduled to be held at Rogers Place and in Red Deer from Dec. 26 – Jan. 4.

“We’re not going to make any decision on World Juniors until late in the summer, maybe into September,” said Nicholson.

“We hope we’ll have fans back in the building November or December. We don’t want to play the World Juniors in Edmonton without fans. I think everyone is on that same page. If we had to, we’d postpone it a year. But that’s not where we are. We hope to be playing here in December. The building is sold out already.”

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