Could The Toronto Maple Leafs Play Playoff Games In Buffalo?
The Buffalo Sabres just wrapped up their 10th straight season without a postseason berth. It's now become normal for Sabres fans to watch the NHL playoffs without their team competing for the Stanley Cup.
However, the NHL playoffs this spring have been tremendous, at least for the first round.
The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Nashville Predators in six games; the Winnipeg Jets swept the Edmonton Oilers; the New York Islanders knocked out the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games; the Colorado Avalanche swept the St. Louis Blues; the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Florida Panthers in six games; and the Boston Bruins beat the Washington Capitals in five games.
The only two first-round series yet to finish (as of Friday at 7 pm, EST) are the Minnesota Wild/Vegas Golden Knights (game 7 is Friday night) and the Montreal Canadiens/Toronto Maple Leafs (game 6 is Saturday night).
However, even though NHL playoff games that have been played in the U.S. have had fans in their arenas, all the Canadian markets have not, due to the Canadian Government not allowing fans inside arenas, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Canadian teams are playing one another, as part of the North Division, but fans and teams are wondering what will happen when one of those Canadian teams have to play an American-based team in the final four of the playoffs?
According to ESPN, there are two scenarios being discussed right now.
One is that negotiations between the Canadian Government and the NHL lead to a special dispensation to travel back and forth from each country for a playoff series.
The second (which seems more likely) is the Canadian-based franchise (winner of the North Division) would play home games at a U.S.-based arena.
Heavy speculation would be a team like the Leafs would play home games at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo if they should advance to the semifinal.
However, ESPN reports that the NHL would likely, instead, have the Canadian-based team play home games at a neighboring NHL city to the team they're facing. So, if the Leafs play the Lightning let's say, they would play in Florida or Carolina, perhaps; and not Buffalo. This would save on travel costs.
Could you imagine though? It's bad enough the Sabres are so terrible, but for a rival team like the Leafs raising the Stanley Cup in Buffalo? I don't think many Sabres fans would be fond of that.