Toronto and Edmonton are on the verge of being picked as hub cities for the NHL’s resumption of play, according to multiple reports.
TSN, Sportsnet, the Toronto Star and Postmedia all reported Wednesday the league is poised to pick two Canadian cities as sites for the 24 remaining teams to resume play later this summer, with the NHL attempting to crown a Stanley Cup champion during the COVID-19 pandemic.
An NHL spokesperson said negotiations are ongoing in an e-mail to The Canadian Press.
Toronto and Edmonton were among 10 markets originally under consideration to serve as the NHL’s two hubs. The league and players unveiled the format for a resumption of play in late May featuring 24 teams split between two centres where they would play in front of no fans.
The plan calls for players and staff to be segregated from the general population inside so-called “bubbles” in hopes of keeping the novel coronavirus at bay. The league has said it will test players daily if its plan to resume play goes ahead.
Vancouver, Las Vegas, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis/St. Paul were the other cities in the running to be hubs before the league started to pare down the list in recent weeks.
Las Vegas was viewed as a hub front-runner because its massive hotel complexes could be more-easily secured in a bubble scenario until a recent surge in COVID-19 cases across large swaths of the United States – the death toll there currently stands at more than 130,000 – made the destination less appealing.
The Canucks, meanwhile, announced last week Vancouver was out of the running.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said public health is B.C.‘s main focus.
“I’ve not had direct conversations with the NHL,” she said. “What we provided was our advice and basically the fact that we would take the health of our players and the health of our province as the primary concern in terms of having the NHL play in Vancouver.”
The NHL was one of many sports leagues to halt play on March 12 during the early stages of the pandemic.