The NHL still doesn’t have a concrete idea of when or how the season will resume, but continue to work on potential options for a restart. One of those is a “hub city” proposal, where teams would gather in one location to play games in front of empty arenas. Gary Bettman spoke this morning, and Nick Cotsonika of NHL.com relayed his most important points. Among them is the idea that the league continues to look at “eight or nine different places” that would be able to host up to a dozen teams in one location. That would need ample hotel and practice facilities, obviously ruling out some markets in North America.
On Sportsnet radio today, Chris Johnston explained that he has heard the two leading candidate cities are Las Vegas and Columbus, though there is still work to do on both fronts. Johnston does explain that the league and NHLPA are “getting closer to having the actual format essentially nailed down.”
The two-city hub idea would have each conference split to complete some play-in games before a regular playoffs and would allow the league to operate without dealing with multiple state, provincial or federal governments. Remember, as Cotsonika writes, 17 percent of the league’s players are currently outside of North America and will likely need a quarantine period following their return.
Both Johnston and Bettman focus on testing as the biggest question the league has to solve before anything can come back. The commissioner explained that the amount of tests is a “fundamental question” though he did sound optimistic about the increased capacity.
To be clear, nothing has been announced officially from the league at this point on which cities would be used as hubs. As with anything related to coronavirus contingencies, a new outbreak or wave could immediately change (or scrap) any plans.