NHL rules out Dallas, Pittsburgh as hub cities; six options remain

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Cross Dallas and Pittsburgh off of the list of possible playoff hub cities for the NHL’s return-to-play plans. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the list shrunk from 10 to six possibilities.

Chicago, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Vancouver remain as possible NHL hub cities. Earlier this week, the NHL ruled out Columbus and Minneapolis/St. Paul as hub cities.

Pittsburgh, Dallas ruled out as NHL hub cities

The Stars haven’t released a comment about Dallas being ruled out yet. Meanwhile, Penguins executive David Morehouse released a statement regarding Pittsburgh not making the cut.

It’s not that shocking to see Pittsburgh ruled out, when you consider this map of COVID-19 cases, via the CDC:

CDC map COVID-19 NHL hub cities Dallas Pittsburgh

Texas (111,601) and Pennsylvania (82,186) rank among the areas hit hardest by COVID-19. KERA News notes more than 17,000 cases in Dallas county alone.

The NHL might not just be making decisions about hub cities based on COVID-19 outbreak numbers, though. The league seems to be taking infrastructure in mind, too. Are practice arenas and hotels conveniently located relative to the NHL arenas? How many NHL-ready rinks are available?

It’s possible such factors helped rule out Dallas and Pittsburgh, too.

A quick look at remaining hub cities options for NHL

Let’s briefly consider the six remaining hub city options for the NHL.

Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver

Check out Canada’s map of COVID-19 cases, via the government website:

Canada map COVID-19 NHL hub cities Dallas Pittsburgh

  • On one hand, Canada’s restrictions, such as mandatory self-quarantine, presents challenges. It sounds like government officials are willing to find ways to compromise, however.
  • As you can see, Texas (111,601) exceeds the total number of cases reported by Canada overall (101,637). Pennsylvania isn’t far behind Canada, either.
  • That said, Ontario (33,637) ranks as one of the hardest-hit provinces. This is where we get into logistics, again, though. Toronto ranks as a convenient market to streamline televising games, and shouldn’t lack for appropriate rinks.
  • Alberta suffers from more cases than British Columbia, but Edmonton officials have been pushing hard to become a hub city for the NHL. Both areas have been spared, relatively speaking — at least so far.
  • The Province’s Patrick Johnston breaks down some of the factors that could make Vancouver especially appealing.

Chicago, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas

  • Los Angeles feels like it at least should be unlikely. It’s part of why California ranks among the hardest-hit states, as Los Angeles county alone accounts for 78,227 confirmed cases, and 3,027 deaths.

The area features the infrastructure and market size that could make Los Angeles an appealing NHL hub cities in many ways. Yet, even among risky ideas, this seems especially risky, though.

  • Las Vegas has been a frontrunner at times. Compared to Los Angeles, the area hasn’t experienced the same level of COVID-19 outbreaks. That doesn’t mean it’s untouched, though.

Clark County reports 10,774 cases, representing almost 80 percent of Nevada’s cases. The Vegas/Nevada area recently experienced its worst spikes, too.

But, yes … relatively speaking, Vegas hasn’t been hit as hard. It also features a pretty unique array of hotels, and a solid market, making it appealing in many ways.

  • Chicago parallels other bigger possible NHL hub cities. Cook County reports a troubling 87,424 cases and 4,423 deaths. But Chicago also shares many of the resources the NHL may prefer in hub cities.

Overall, the six remaining potential NHL hub cities present pros and cons. It’s pretty easy to see the safer options, yet the league also must try to time things right to pull off a return to play. That continues to look like a pretty difficult needle to thread.

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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.