The NHL officially entered phase 2 of their ‘return to play‘ plan today. Phase 3, which calls for teams to gather in one of two hub cities to begin quarantine, hold training camps, and ultimately play playoff games, is currently set for mid-July. The final selection of those two hub cities is just days away, but plenty of uncertainty remains.
Hub City Candidates
As you may recall, the cities in contention to host the 2020 playoff games include:
- Los Angeles
- St. Paul
- Toronto, and
Things may be looking up for the Canadian candidate locations. Once believed to be a deal-breaker, it sounds like the Canadian government may be loosening it’s grip on border-crossing restrictions.
Talks on the Canadian border continue between the 3 Canadian teams, the NHL and the Federal government. Sense is things are heading in a positive direction and a decision on the 14 day quarantine issue could come this week.
— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) June 8, 2020
While he wouldn’t be specific about what the deadline is, Bill Daly told TSN the Canadian Government is very aware of the NHL’s timeline for a decision on the border quarantine issue. Dialogue continues. He adds all 3 Canadian cities remain options for the NHL’s hub city plan.
As of now, Canadian federal law requires those entering the country to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival, making it tough to foresee the NHL deciding on one hub city in Canada and one in the United States. However, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has discussed possible exceptions with the federal government, including the possibility of allowing the NHL’s bubble environment to serve as part of the two-week quarantine which would allow games and practices to continue.
Because Las Vegas is a very likely selection for one of the hub sites, it’s very unlikely the NHL will go with two hub cities in the western time zone, thus eliminating Edmonton and Vancouver. If Canada does get a city, look for Toronto to get the call. Otherwise don’t be surprised if Chicago gets the ‘second city‘.
The U.S. government facilitated boarder crossings for athletes on May 23. (Here)
Commissioner Bettman said on Thursday, May 28, “I’m going to probably have to make a decision collectively on this probably in three weeks. I think in two weeks we’ll start narrowing down further. Somewhere around three weeks we’re going to have to pull the trigger and finalize the arrangements and make the deposits.”
If you project that out, a short list should be made by this coming Thursday, June 11, with decision on the final two locations coming the following week, by Friday, June 19.
As for the start of phase 3 at each hub location, the league is still holding on to the mid-July timeframe.
There’s been some confusion out there about the potential start of NHL training camps for the 24 teams in Phase 3: both the NHL and NHLPA, subject to negotiation, are hoping for mid-July still for start of camps…
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 8, 2020
Hub City Setup
According to Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, there will be absolutely no media at the hub city locations.
“One city is almost certain to be Las Vegas. The other may come down to Chicago or Los Angeles. And I’m told there will be no media, including game announcers, on-site.”
The league shut down on March 12 due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
By Jon Sorensen