It’s still a long way away but it’s possible the Golden Knights hoist their first Stanley Cup on neutral ice. If the Canadian and American governments cannot broker a COVID-19 travel agreement by the postseason we could be looking at another Cup Final not on home ice.
As Vegas and the rest of the NHL teams gradually allow fans inside NHL arenas, the league is also keeping an eye on decreasing infection rates and percentages of vaccinated citizens. If the strict Canadian quarantine rules still exist this summer, the North Division winner will have no choice but to travel and try their luck at destiny in the US. Depending on if restrictions are lifted or not, Vegas would welcome any scenario that kept them in the States throughout the postseason.
Normally, the Canadian influencers in the league would get their way though. Last year, when the league was scouting locations for a playoff bubble they ended up settling on two Canadian locations. No surprise. However, this time around the suits in Toronto won’t have a choice. If their government continues with quarantine protocols the league will be forced to send the North Division winner down south. Remember, it’s three against one this year.
So what does this mean for Vegas? On TSN’s Insider Trading segment, Frank Seravalli ran down a scenario where a Canadian team is forced to finish their playoff run in the United States. He added that to avoid an unfair home-ice advantage, some games could be played at a neutral site. However, Seravalli didn’t confirm if the entire series would be played in one location, or split in American arenas. It’s almost certain the league would want the Golden Knights to host their home playoff games at T-Mobile Arena, but would there be fans allowed in a neutral site game “hosting” a Canadian team?
Another question that has to be asked is what time zone will the neutral location be in? If the Golden Knights get matched up with Toronto or Montreal, would the site be in the Eastern time zone? If so, that could mean a lot of unexpected travel for Vegas.
Normally, they wouldn’t travel far for the first few rounds but this postseason, the mileage could pile up. The Golden Knights could possibly play two teams already from the East. It’s realistic the path to the Cup for Vegas is Minnesota (1,650 miles), Denver (750 miles), Boston (2,700 miles), and then Toronto (2,200 miles). Moving a Canadian team down to the States could cut it down, no matter what, Vegas’ travel will end up looking more like year one when they took a trip to DC for the Cup finals.
Beyond not having to cross the border, another positive for Vegas is the possibility of hosting postseason games in their home arena with fans in the building. The player’s union assured their constituents that they would not accept another playoff bubble. This more than likely means if there will be a neutral site, it’ll only be used for the Canadian champions’ home games, and if they follow the MLB model, fans could potentially be allowed in to watch.
No matter where Vegas plays their road games in the third round or finals, we know they’ll be fans in the building screaming “Knight” during the American anthem.