By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The National Hockey League has narrowed their double-digit list of hub city options down to six, according to Pierre LeBrun.
“Of those six, my understanding is that Vegas along with the three Canadian bids in Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto figure prominently,” LeBrun wrote in his latest update for The Athletic. “Los Angeles also keeps pushing and Chicago is confirmed to be still in the running, sources said Monday.”
Based on the original list revealed by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman when discussing the league’s plans last month, this means that Columbus, Dallas, Minneapolis, and Pittsburgh are now considered out of the running as hub options. These cuts aren’t exactly shocking, with the exception of Columbus, as it was at one point considered a potential favorite. Their positive trending in terms of COVID-19 infections seemed encouraging, too.
LeBrun later goes on to note that he figures Vegas and then one of Edmonton or Vancouver being the favorites as of right now.
Nevada has seen some significant spikes in positive tests since reopening, which may make Vegas a dicey call for the NHL. But per LeBrun, the league is convinced that their procedures would not put the players and staff in danger.
Edmonton has been gunning hard to be a hub city, and Jason Kenney, the Premier of Alberta, took to Twitter to make a visual pitch to the NHL on Monday. In the video, Kenney highlights the vacation options for players and families while in Edmonton, which would surely beat the alternative of sitting in a hotel by yourself and away from your family for over two months. That family factor seems to be an issue for the NHL and NHLPA, too, with the sides already telling one another that they’ll have to make some sacrifices for the greater good. Having your family able to hang out in the mountains, even if it’s a little bit further away from the arena and hotel, is better than being states (and maybe countries) away.
Vancouver has been well-managed from the start of the pandemic, really, with under 3,000 cases in B.C. and just 168 COVID-related deaths in all, according to the latest numbers from the Vancouver Sun.
Toronto, which remains on the table per LeBrun, is an interesting option for the league as well, as the the Maple Leafs and Marlies sharing the city gives the league multiple ready-to-go arenas for the league. (My own take here: I really think you’re going to need at least one hub city with two available arenas if you’re going to get these playoffs done in both a timely manner and one that appeases the networks. If you’re in a city with two arenas, you can have multiple games going on at the same time or slightly staggered.)
Chicago could worth watching, too, as the city has progressed in recent weeks, and could be set to move to Phase 4 of their plan later this week, according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Chicago also has two pro arenas in town between the United Center, which houses the Blackhawks and the AllState Arena, which has been home to the AHL’s Chicago Wolves.
As of right now, the league is scheduled to move into Phase 3, which will feature full-team training camps with the hopes of moving into Phase 4 about three weeks later, on July 10.