Columbus, Minneapolis/St. Paul ruled out as NHL hub cities

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If the NHL resumes play later this summer, there won’t be any hockey in Columbus or Minnesota.

Columbus was ruled out as a potential hub on Monday, according to Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. He told The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline that the Eastern Conference city was one of the last few to be considered, but the league is going in a different direction.

“You take the positives along with the disappointment and you move on,” Kekalainen said. “There are only two cities that can get the nod.”

Michael Russo confirmed that the remaining options will also not include Minneapolis/St. Paul.

When the NHL announced its Return to Play plan in May, Columbus and Minneapolis/St. Paul were two of 10 cities in the U.S. and Canada under consideration to be one of the two hubs. The list is reportedly down to six, with an announcement as early as this week. There is still plenty of to work to do alongside the NHLPA before that happens, however.

Positive tests continue in NHL

There are many factors playing into the decision to select a hub, but safety is the most important aspect. The number of COVID-19 cases in each market will play a role in this process. A number of NHL players and staff have tested positive since the March 12 pause, including, reportedly, Auston Matthews. The Lightning closed their training facility on Friday after multiple positive tests.

The NHL announced Friday that after 200-plus tests had been administered since Phase 2 got under way, 11 returned positive.

Reportedly, the three Canadian options — Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver — remain in play after the government approved an exemption for players and team officials to cross the border, which is currently closed to non-essential travel until late July, without the mandated 14-day quarantine period.

Las Vegas has been a popular choice to be one of the hub cities from the start, but the idea of having both in Canada has emerged as a strong possibility.

Follow this NBC News live update thread for more on the coronavirus pandemic.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.