The Colorado Avalanche will play in one of two host cities, but the NHL and NHLPA have yet to announce the chosen ones; the NHL is expected to make its announcement by next week.
The anticipation is palpable….
One of the stipulations of the National Hockey League’s four-phase, Return To Play Plan requires settlement within the league on host hub cities. Two hubs to be exact, carefully chosen according to a set of criteria to host the resuscitated 2020 NHL season, which was down for the count since the ‘Great Lockdown’ was imposed on all major American sports league way back in March.
One city to host the Eastern Conference playoffs and one to host the Western Conference will be selected before the playoffs get underway in either late July or early August, and the Stanley Cup finals will likely be hosted in one of the two cities. It goes without saying, getting the nod is going to be quite the coup for the city in question.
Chills! Can they do this for the Stanley Cup Finals, NBA Finals, World Series and Super Bowl, please! https://t.co/NBqnnzUy5m
— Jason Olson (@SunSportsJason) June 26, 2020
According to various media reports, the league is steadily getting closer to its decision after narrowing its list of contenders.
Dallas and Pittsburgh, along with Columbus, were scratched earlier this week. Told they didn’t make the latest round of cuts. Vancouver was added to the canceled list on Thursday, too.
That leaves a shortlist that includes four Western Conference cities and merely one Eastern Conference city. Toronto in the East, Vegas, Edmonton, Chicago and Los Angeles in the West.
On the American front, Las Vegas emerges as a likelier destination than Chicago or Los Angeles. The T-Mobile Arena sits against an attractive backdrop presented by the majestic New York Hotel & Casino and support for the Vegas Golden Knights is huge in the gambling capital of the world. Speaking of coups, the NHL got it in one with this expansion team.
But let’s not digress here…
Waxing lyrical about Sin City aside, Vegas from the start was a frontrunner for the nod according to NHL odds. From a practical level, T-Mobile Arena is situated on the Strip, near to hotels and restaurants that would make the commute between facilities and accommodations simple and straightforward.
The one downside to Vegas is its level of distraction, which could side-track many a team from the business at hand during a long playoff stretch. Whether that’s a reason why the Avs seem to struggle to win there is up in the air – but I’m not ruling it out. The 7-0 debacle that marked Colorado’s debut at T-Arena will forevermore be ingrained in memory.
Another downside to Vegas – one that it shares with Los Angeles – is it remains a COVID-19 hotbed. The NHL may choose to overlook this in the end. Then again, it might not. After all, the NHL swiftly hit pause on the season after the NBA announced its decision to do so. Moreover, recent reports of players testing positive for coronavirus since phase 2 of the Return To Play initiative got underway are a source of concern.
One of the Canadian hopefuls is expected to be a hub, by all accounts. Edmonton and Toronto have long struck an attractive pose north of the border; and now, thanks largely to Canada’s federal government providing parameters, within which it would be possible to tailor bespoke coronavirus-edits for the NHL and its players, one of these two lucky cities, steeped in hockey tradition, has an even better shot to become a hub.
Towards that end, Edmonton is unabashedly putting its best foot forward, selling its city and “nearby” surroundings in feature videos on social media. Mind you, the Rocky Mountains are about as close to Edmonton as Chicago is to the Grand Canyon. But, hey, who’s going to notice. It’s not as if the rink will be rammed with fans or the city crowded over with tourists, right.
We look forward to welcoming the league and players here to Alberta to take in the beautiful province we have to offer. pic.twitter.com/kp0iN86vCP
— Jason Kenney (@jkenney) June 22, 2020
Meanwhile, the Avs keep getting ready to play…somewhere.
— x-Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) June 25, 2020
Which way the NHL and NHLPA slices the decision, remains to be seen. Much rests on which of these cities will provide the most desirable bubble for staff and players to coexist in safely together, by way of hotels and restaurant services near hockey facilities.