NHL Looks For New Ways To Engage With Fan-Less Restart "Obvious"
NHL Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer called it "obvious" that the league will have to restart with no fans if and when it is able to resume, according to LeBrun & Burnside of THE ATHLETIC. Given that, Mayer wondered, "How do you make the environment visually exciting, how do you make what you’re listening to exciting as well? And how do you make it feel and look a little different from game to game, I think that's also one of the challenges." He continued, "I'll give you a hint into the way I think, look at our outdoor games, look at our All-Star Game, look at the way the environment looks and that'll probably give you a hint as to at least how my team and I are thinking." Mayer said the NHL's return-to-play plans are "ever-evolving" and "changing all the time." He addressed the criteria the league is searching for in hub cities: "We're back down to what I would consider a workable group [of cities]. We're not narrowing it down (to the final hub cities) until we have to. ... Our criteria have been fairly simple. ... It will be an NHL city that will host whether we’re in two cities or in four cities. We needed also an arena that can handle four to six teams, locker-rooms, not every arena can do that" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/20).
WESTERN CANADIAN OPTIONS: In Edmonton, Robert Tychkowski notes the Oilers, who have been "pushing hard behind the scenes to become an NHL hub city if the season resumes, are now taking their case public." The way they see it, Edmonton's Ice District and the city's overall response to COVID-19 "should make it an automatic choice to host one of the 12-team playoff groups." Oilers Entertainment Group Senior VP/Communications Tim Shipton said, "We've been working diligently with the NHL, the Government of Alberta and the City of Edmonton on a host bid. ... Edmonton should be right at the top of the list" (EDMONTON SUN, 5/21). SPORTSNET.ca's Iain MacIntyre noted Vancouver also is an "appealing candidate to stage the NHL playoffs." There were "just two new cases of COVID-19 reported by the province on Tuesday," and British Columbia’s coronavirus mortality rate is the "lowest of any jurisdiction in North America or Western Europe that contains at least five million residents." In addition, Rogers Arena is "downtown, walking distance to several luxury hotels," and both Burnaby Eight Rinks and the three sheets of ice at the Univ. of British Columbia are "available as practice venues a short drive away" (SPORTSNET.ca, 5/20).
BORDER WAR: In Vancouver, Ben Kuzma notes the "'us versus them' between Vancouver and Edmonton would pit the workable Rogers Arena against the expansive Rogers Place, JW Marriott against JW Marriott, and Ice District vs. Yaletown." It is "probably going to either be Vancouver or Edmonton for serious consideration because if Vegas gets a nod, that’s two sites in the west for either hosting concept." If it is just two hubs in a 12-team concept, "what about Toronto or Columbus, Ohio?" With eight or nine cities still being vetted for hosting, the league "doesn’t want the Canucks or the Oilers exchanging verbal jabs" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 5/21).