The “hub city” question now has an end date. Ever since the NHL began the process of creating an expanded playoff format for this year, the question of where these tournaments will take place has been a hot topic. Early on in this process, it was believed that non-NHL cities like Grand Forks, North Dakota and Manchester, New Hampshire could be the targets, but that plan fell by the wayside in favor of more familiar locales. The league made it clear when releasing formal details of the postseason plan that the two hub cities would be NHL homes and revealed that Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver were the finalists. The province of British Columbia recently submitted an official proposal for Vancouver to be one of the two cities selected and each of these finalists is believed to have made a similar pitch. So, when will know what the choice is? John Katsilometes of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that the NHL will announce the hub cities for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs on June 22. He also adds that MGM Resorts is preparing as if Las Vegas will be one of the two choices. This would align with a rumor that Las Vegas and Los Angeles were the favorites to be selected as hub cities, likely with the Golden Knights and their Western Conference competitors going to L.A. as to avoid a hometown bias and the Eastern Conference moving in in Vegas. We will know the definite answer in just ten days, before training camps open on July 10 and well before the hopeful start date of actual game play on August 1.
- The Canadian cities included in the list of “hub city” finalists – Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver – are seen by some as long shots to be selected due to the tighter restrictions on quarantining in Canada. The federal government currently has a 14-day mandatory quarantine in place for anyone entering the country and there had previously been no sign that they would waive this for NHL players and personnel. However, TSN’s Darren Dreger notes that British Columbia and Manitoba have lightened their rules, allowing anyone who has already quarantined for 14 days elsewhere in Canada to avoid doing so again when entering the province. If they were to allow that same policy to extend to teams coming from the U.S., that would make Vancouver and Edmonton into more attractive destinations. As for Ontario, the province has not been as lenient and although Toronto is considered a great option as a host, the NHL cannot afford a strict quarantine policy if there are other cities that do not require such a time commitment. The city Dreger feels is the front-runner to host? He too says Las Vegas.
- As for another impact of the current COVID crisis, Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson told the press in a long conference call on Thursday that the league may not be done playing in front of empty seats after the 2020 postseason. Molson stated that the NHL has not ruled out the possibility that they might have to at least begin the 2020-21 without fans. While the hope is that by the time the new regular season starts, likely to be somewhere between late November to perhaps January 1, this will not be an issue, the league has discussed empty buildings or limited capacities. Molson himself said that he would be “very surprised” to see full capacities when the new season begins later this year.
- TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that CBA negotiations continue to move forward between the NHL and NHLPA. A sign of good progress could be that the two sides are reportedly discussing the term of the CBA extension right now, rather than arguing over actual aspects of the agreement. LeBrun reports that the new deal is expected to land at either four or five years. He believes that the players’ association prefers four while the league would like five. With two years remaining on the current CBA, a length of five year would maintain labor piece through the 2026-27 season.