When 24 teams are going to be vying to be in the playoffs, two NHL hub cities had to be selected to host the games under controlled conditions.
Each city would need to have accommodations within proximity of the arena to exclude any chance of players becoming infected with the COVID-19 virus. Selection criteria would include amenities for both the players and their families. Details are still being worked out.
Two NHL Hub Cities Which Are Favoured
As of this writing, the decision on which two cities have the inside track to host the presumed playoffs are being negotiated. Or, if it even gets that far. Many things must go into consideration as this is a tough decision for league officials to make. According to a report the NHL plans to begin play on July 10.
It was reported by Sportsnet.ca about a week ago that Las Vegas has nearly locked up one hub city selection. Now it was also decided that the Canadian government will allow NHL players to cross the Canadian border from the United States without a required 14-day quarantine. This allows the rumoured cities of Edmonton, Vancouver, and Toronto in Canada to be the other hub city for the proposed playoffs. Vancouver has picked up steam as a hub city.
Vancouver has picked up steam as being a NHL hub city, the league is getting closer to making a decision
— Satiar Shah (@SatiarShah) June 20, 2020
Toronto as a Hub City
It seems likely that Toronto will have the majority of support due to its first-class hotels located near the Scotiabank Arena where the Toronto Maple Leafs play. Not only is Toronto, where the Hockey Hall of Fame is located, but also houses one of the leagues’ central offices. Toronto would be a popular fan choice as well.
But, what needs evaluation is how safe is Toronto concerning the pandemic? According to the City of Toronto, they have 1,028 active cases with 1,034 deaths. The positive take on their statistics is the recovery rate. 11,706 have recovered from the virus.
Cases have significantly slowed or are disappearing in Toronto. The most updated statistics for Toronto are from June 16, and there were just two new cases in the city. Toronto, which has a sprawling greater metropolitan area of nearly six million people, reported only 53 new cases over four days from June 13-16. That’s encouraging.
Even more, Toronto has not reported a COVID-19 related death over those four days.
The downside is Toronto has averaged 91 cases per day in the last seven days, per Toronto.ca.
That bodes well since if an NHL player does contract the virus while in Toronto, the recovery rate is exceptional. What remains unclear is how will it affect a star player like Auston Matthews, or John Tavares, or Alex Ovechkin?
Teams get along fine without players all the time due to injuries that last longer than 14 days. Having the expanded roster will certainly help any team who experiences a quarantine to one of its players.
Vegas as a Hub City
Las Vegas is a mixed bag. On June 19, Clark County, Nevada reported 195,683 total tests conducted. Recently there have been 10,259 cases reported with 397 deaths. Their daily death rate has decreased.
Vegas just like many large cities is trying to recover from the economic losses which disabled casinos and their bread and butter hospitality industries. With hotels remaining closed, and casinos and restaurants only reopening a marginally reduced capacity, Vegas seems perfect for the NHL.
Similar to what the NBA did in Florida, the NHL will want players isolated in certain hotels with some form of entertainment (besides gambling in casinos) to stay busy on off days. Having their families with them may be a good piece of mind. Of course, that also presents the risk that if a player tested positive he could pass it on to a family member.
As far as an ideal setting to hold a play-in series and playoff games, Vegas can’t be beaten. Don’t forget Vegas isn’t called the entertainment capital for no reason. The missing ingredient for these games will be no fans in the stands. It’s what Vegas does best, entertain its audience. It will take some adjustment to even watch a game on TV without fans. It’s curious how players will react.
Here’s David Pastrnak‘s take on the topic.
#NHLBruins forward David Pastrnak on how it’s going to be weird playing #NHL games without fans in the stands and sharing his clear cut favourite to win the Hart Trophy: https://t.co/VE18Hc3LKB#TSNHockey pic.twitter.com/HM3ODO0BRS
— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) June 16, 2020
Fittingly enough if Toronto and Las Vegas are chosen as NHL hub cities they will serve as good hosts for the games under unusual circumstances. Both cities live and die for hockey. It would seem a good choice to have Western Conference games played in Toronto and Eastern Conference games played in Las Vegas.
The biggest question remains. Do we even get to the point where the NHL can pull it off and finish the 2019-20 season and award the Stanley Cup? For hockey fans everywhere this is a volatile topic. Some feel that it’s too risky. Others yearn to see their favourite sport so intensely that they think it will all work out.
If it does come to fruition, it very well could happen in two great hockey cities.
Las Vegas and Toronto. July 30th awaits all hockey fans with anticipation.
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