NHL Down To Six Hub Candidates; Announcement Could Be This Week
The NHL and NHLPA are "making progress on where the two hub cities will be located," and they "may have a decision made by later this week," according to LeBrun & Rishaug of TSN.ca. The two sides have "shortened their original list of 10 hub cities down to six" -- Chicago, Edmonton, Las Vegas, L.A., Toronto and Vancouver. The likely scenario has Las Vegas "being paired with either Vancouver or Edmonton while Toronto [is] on the outside looking in." Oilers Entertainment Group made a "big push on safety and the player's experience in their latest proposal." OEG officials are highlighting that "all players can now stay" at the JW Marriott across from Rogers Place and "are also pitching an 'Olympic village' style setup where players and staff can pass the time using golf simulators, basketball courts, movies and other forms of entertainment." Vancouver also has altered its proposal, with "high-end hotels close to the arena, restaurants and a 30,000 square-foot space for players to use being the highlights." MLSE "resubmitted their bid on Sunday after the NHL and NHLPA sent feedback last week," though there is "some concern whether Toronto can maintain a tight enough bubble downtown near Scotiabank Arena" (TSN.ca, 6/22).
ALBERTA, EDMONTON MAKE THEIR PITCH: The CP's Dean Bennett reported Alberta is "upping the ante in its bid for Edmonton ... pitching Rocky Mountain excursions for players' families." Alberta Premier Jason Kenny on Twitter wrote, "It's the obvious choice to bring the NHL to Edmonton." He also included a video "celebrating panoramic vistas of soaring mountains and pristine lakes." The bid by the Oilers and Kenney previously focused on the fact Alberta "has flattened the curve on COVID cases, is a world leader in per-capita testing, and could keep players isolated because the downtown home arena Rogers Place is linked by pedway to hotels and other amenities" (CP, 6/22). SPORTSNET.ca's Mark Spector wrote under the header, "How Edmonton Is Setting Itself Apart In NHL Hub City Bid." Spector: "What you can do in downtown Edmonton is create an NHL Village, similar to an Olympic Village, with large outdoor spaces and patios that are inside the Ice District bubble" (SPORTSNET.ca, 6/22).
MINNESOTA, COLUMBUS OUT OF THE MIX: THE ATHLETIC's Portzline & Russo reported both the Wild and Blue Jackets were informed yesterday that they are "out of the running" to be hub sites. Minnesota was "once a strong candidate because of the state-of-the-art Xcel Energy Center and countless practice rink venues in the Twin Cities." However, the "unrest since the murder of George Floyd by a police officer and the threat of defunding the Minneapolis police department was likely a big influence in the league’s decision" (THEATHLETIC.com, 6/22). Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said that the NHL "did not offer reasons for its decision to eliminate Columbus." In Columbus, Brian Hedger noted hotel space "might have been a key factor in Columbus not being selected, particularly after the NHL opted to use two hub cities rather than four to host its 24-team return plan." Kekalainen: "It’s great that we made it to the final stage of the selection process and we’ll take the positive with the disappointment and move on” (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 6/22).
SAFETY IS FIRST AND FOREMOST: NESN’s Andy Brickley noted the NHL appears to have a “really good plan" to naming the hubs. League officials "weren’t in any hurry," as they have held off naming hub cities "because they’re concerned about the trends and who’s having the spikes.” Brickley: “Don’t worry about time zones and Canadian versus U.S. cities and NBC’s impact, it's all about the safety. Where is the safest place and can the bubble be actually safer than where the players are right now trying to get into their training camp facilities to get ready for training camp” ("After Hours," NESN, 6/22). Meanwhile, in Toronto, Dave Feschuk wrote under the header, "Both NHL Hubs Should Be In Canada. Looking South Borders On Madness These Days." While Las Vegas "remains a front-runner" to be one of the two hubs, this "might be a moment to rethink spending a hockey summer on the strip." While Nevada's status with a growing number of coronavirus cases "isn't as grim-looking as Florida’s," it also is "not exactly a paragon of public health policy." Feschuk: "If the U.S. is bungling the pandemic worse than any jurisdiction this side of Brazil, why not avoid the U.S. entirely and base both 12-team hubs on the less virus-infested side of the world’s longest undefended (and still rightfully unopened) border?" (TORONTO STAR, 6/22).