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NHL eyeing all-Canadian division with January 1st as a potential start date

Oilers’ goaltender Mike Smith fights Flames’ Cam Talbot on February 01, 2020, in Calgary, Alberta. Photo credit: Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

Well into our second month without NHL games now, hockey fans are clamoring for some NHL action, and with any luck, they’ll be seeing it by New Years’ Day.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has spoken multiple times now about the possibility of a January 1st start date for the upcoming season, but as we inch closer to that date without any plan formally in place, you have to wonder how realistic that target really is. Of course, the biggest obstacle for the league right now is the current surge in cases of COVID-19 across both the United States and Canada.

The Canada-US border is still closed until November 21st, after the closure was once again extended last month. However, with cases on the rise, and the deadline being only one week away, it’s incredibly likely that this closure will be extended again very soon. Even if we see a dramatic improvement in the number of cases in both countries, it’s doubtful that we’ll see the border open before January or perhaps even February.

So, where does that leave the binational National Hockey League? With 24 US-based teams and only seven in Canada, the vast majority of matchups for Canadian teams during any given season are against American opponents. However, that could be changing this upcoming season, as rumours continue to float around about an all-Canadian division for the 2021 NHL season.

Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton are all currently in the NHL’s Pacific division and typically play each other about four or five times per season. The same can be said for Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal, who account for a good portion of the Atlantic division. On the outside looking in are the Winnipeg Jets, who are presently joined by six US-based teams in the Central division, and consequently play their fellow Canadian opponents less often during a regular 82-game season.

If the Canadian division ends up going ahead, we’ll be treated to more frequent matchups between Pacific and Atlantic teams, as well as between the Jets and the other six Canadian clubs. However, with January 1st as the target date, it’s unlikely the NHL will manage to squeeze in an entire 82-game schedule, which typically runs from October to April.

The NHL does have experience planning a shortened season, though, having played a 48-game campaign in 2013 due to a CBA-related lockdown. That season ran from January 19th to April 28th, so with a two-week head start, the NHL should be able to pencil in another half a dozen games or so, and still finish relatively on time. With travel also being less of a concern, the NHL has suggested that teams play short series against one another, similar to how the MLB operates. This would allow teams to play two or three games in one city over a shorter period of time, without wasting as much time on the road.

At this point, it’s still all up in the air, however. The NHL has also tabled the idea of short-term hubs, where teams would play in one location for 10 to 12 days before moving on to the next one. Essentially, this would be a miniature version of what we saw in Edmonton and Toronto this past summer for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

No matter how it all shakes out, what seems to be almost a given at this point is that we will see an all-Canadian division. It’s entirely possible that the teams branch out and play US-based teams later on in the season if restrictions lift, but we’ll be seeing a lot of all-Canadian action this season regardless.

Now, just for fun, let’s see how an all-Canadian division with all-Canadian matchups would’ve turned out last season. Obviously, the sample size will be incredibly small, and this won’t take into account any roster moves made by the clubs during the offseason, but let’s take a look anyway.

Despite the fact that the Vancouver Canucks went the farthest of any Canadian team last year in the playoffs, making it to game seven of the Western Conference semifinals, they had a dreadful regular season record against the other six Canadian clubs. Winnipeg played a handful fewer games than every other team against their Canadian counterparts but using points-percentage as the measuring stick for success, they sit atop.

Of course, there’s no telling what will really happen this coming season and one person’s guess as is good as next’s. The NHL is running out of time to set everything in motion if they do want to accomplish that January 1st start date.

For now we’ll sit back and wait, and imagine the possibilities.

Peer review #3: Masked Retail (maskedretail.com)

This week’s peer review will focus on a website by one of my classmates called Masked Retail, which covers many topics related to working and shopping at retail stores during the COVID-19 pandemic. The topic couldn’t be more relevant to our lives right now with case numbers increasing and the holiday shopping season upon us, so I actually really enjoyed exploring this website.

The website has a very clean design that’s aesthetically pleasing. The header isn’t overwhelming and adds a nice splash of colour to a simple, yet inviting homepage. I like that homepage draws readers in with a couple of simple questions before inviting them to browse the site to find the answers to those questions and more.

Masked Retail is also very easy to navigate thanks to its implementation of a standard menu bar. Moreover, giving users the ability to click just about anywhere (header, pictures, headings) and be taken to a page makes it extremely user-friendly. I could continue on about the positive features of this website, including the friendly about page and well-written blog posts, but at this point in the semester I think it will be more helpful to focus on a few specific elements that could benefit from a bit of tweaking.

With this week’s topic revolving around marketing, I’ll now consider the ways in which this website is marketable. As I mentioned previously, the topic is something that is relevant to all of us as consumers right now, so in that sense, it’s highly marketable. After reading the admin’s latest process post, I can see that she doesn’t feel like she’s in a position to monetize right now, which is completely fair. However, for the purpose of this week’s review, I’ll go over a few things that could improve the website from both a design standpoint and for potential future monetization.

As the admin notes, a site cluttered with advertisements isn’t their style, and I agree that it might take away from the tidy nature of the website. However, Masked Retail definitely has the potential to feature sponsored content or affiliate ads from specific retailers or others involved in the industry who might want to get a message out to a broader public concerned with safe shopping practices.

I understand that the admin doesn’t want to be identifiable on this website for privacy reasons, but perhaps as the website continues to grow, it might be useful to create a Facebook or some sort of social media page under the same name for people to connect to. That way, readers can stay up-to-date on the latest posts without having to check back on their own accord. This would likely increase traffic and improve the overall marketability of the website.

Another suggestion regarding social media would be to add shareable buttons at the bottom or top of posts that allow readers to share them with their social networks. The following website includes a few options for plugins that accomplish this. I just installed Social Snap on my website personally, and while you need a premium membership to unlock more niche platforms, the free version includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and email, which are useful.

Looking at the website’s contact page (below), it might also be useful to include a little message above the fillable fields that suggests why people might want to leave a comment or contact them. For example, they could ask people to contact them with any story suggestions, marketing/partnership opportunities, or just to say hello.

Lastly, I want to briefly address the post grid that the admin has included on their homepage and other post pages.

The use of pictures and a preview of the text within the post is great and gives the site a professional feel. However, when I loaded the site on my mobile device (iPhone XR), the post grid design didn’t transfer all that well. I’m no WordPress guru and don’t know exactly how one would go about making the plugin and site compatible with mobile devices, but it might be something worth looking into. Below are two screenshots side by side of how the homepage looks on Safari on my phone.

If the admin ends up tweaking with the post grid plugin to make it more compatible with other devices, they can use a website like responsivedesignchecker.com, which allows them to plug their URL in and preview the website at different screen resolutions.

Otherwise, this has been one of my favourite websites to explore in the class and I think it has a lot of potential going forward beyond this semester.