By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
11 days away from their expected move into Phase 3 of their Return-To-Play plan, the NHL remains without concrete hub city plans.
On pause since Mar. 12, the NHL has sliced their list down to five potential cities (Chicago, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Toronto) following Vancouver’s formal exit from consideration last week, but the NHL has not formally settled on anything. But now Vegas, long-rumored to be one of the NHL’s choices and considered to be the one ‘lock’ among that group of five, may be on the outs.
In what is our daily update on the league’s plans, TSN’s Frank Seravalli shared that he had heard that Vegas was no longer considered a frontrunner for the NHL. Per Seravalli, the recent spike in COVID-19 has put a “damper” on their bid.
And for good reason.
On Monday, it was revealed that Clark County recorded its third-largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases on Sunday. This came just two days after the region experienced a single-day high of 1,099 on Friday, and with the total number of cases in Nevada eclipsing 17,000. But what had to be most concerning to the NHL was the fact that 56 percent of the positive cases in the region were in the 20-49 age group, according to the Southern Nevada Health District.
That age group covers the entire NHL player pool (as well as some coaches), and could ultimately spell disaster for the league, as players who test positive for the virus would be pulled from action and forced to quarantine. In their most recent update, the NHL noted that 15 players in total have tested positive for the coronavirus since the league moved into Phase 2 (small, voluntary group skates at team facilities) earlier this month, and that 11 out-of-market players have also tested positive.
The Vegas ‘damper’ comes just one day after The Athletic’s Arthur Staple reported that it was ‘looking like’ Vegas was going to be the league’s Western Conference hub city while Toronto would house the Eastern Conference.
Per Seravalli, this potential move away from Vegas could lead the NHL to Edmonton, which would put both hub cities north of the border. That might honestly make the most sense with recent outbreaks in certain pockets of the United States.
The situation remains “fluid,” of course, but the NHL will need to make a definitive call on their hub cities within the next week plus, if only to truly inch this return plan closer to a reality for the 24 teams prepping for a return to action.