- The National Hockey League is planning to resume play with 22 teams in late July.
- All games will be played in one of two ‘hub cities’, likely to be Toronto and Edmonton.
- Las Vegas was the final US city in the mix but was eliminated from consideration due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.
It now looks like the NHL’s return to play will take place entirely North of the Border. Multiple media sources are now reporting that despite the league’s insistence that four cities remain under consideration to be one of two ‘hub cities’ the last two US markets–Chicago and Las Vegas--are out of the running. Apropos for Canada Day, the expectation now is that the NHL will name Edmonton and Toronto as their two hub cities.
So what happened to the bids from the two US cities? The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that the biggest problem with their market was the lack of hotels near the United Center. A quick search on Google Maps is an unscientific way to quantify the lodging situation but from this view there definitely aren’t many hotels in the immediate vicinity:
Hotel availability was definitely *not* the problem in Las Vegas:
Las Vegas’ bid was undone by a sharp spike in the number of positive COVID-19 tests in recent weeks. They’re not alone in experiencing a resurgence of the virus but according to one metric Nevada has the highest rate of coronavirus transmission of any US state with each case responsible for 1.48 infections–a metric known as the Rt. Nevada is one of 38 states with a transmission rate greater than 1. When this number goes below 1 the virus will stop spreading.
THE STANLEY CUP WILL BE DECIDED IN CANADA
In addition to being the spiritual home of hockey the major practical consideration working in Canada’s favor is the country’s effectiveness in getting COVID-19 under control.
Compare that to the US graph representing cases and deaths. If there’s a good news component to this it is that the death toll has dropped significantly:
The plan is to have the Eastern Conference teams play in Toronto and the Western Conference teams in Edmonton. Edmonton has arguably done a better job of containing the COVID-19 pandemic than any city in North America. It’s easily the lowest of any NHL city. It’ll also be easy to created the so-called ‘protective bubble’ in the Edmonton Ice District. Vancouver was also in the mix but ultimately lost out due to the massive testing being conducted in Alberta. Ontario also has a widespread testing scheme underway.
Another reason that Canada makes sense–both Edmonton and Toronto are legitimately excited about being chosen as hubs. The Federal government is also going to bend over backwards to help the NHL facilitate their playoff restart–they’ve already agreed to allow incoming players to bypass the mandatory 14 day isolation period. Toronto also has a ridiculous number of rinks–in addition to the Maple Leafs’ home ice at Scotiabank Arena games could be played at the Coca-Cola Coliseum which is the home of the AHL Toronto Marlies. The Maple Leafs have a practice facility with four separate rinks.
The Canadian sports media is reporting that the NHL will reopen training camps on July 10 though a schedule for the start of play has yet to be released.