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Reports: Edmonton, Toronto more likely NHL hub city options than Vancouver

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Multiple reports indicate that Vancouver is becoming a less likely hub city option for the NHL. Edmonton and Toronto now have better odds if the NHL opts to go with at least one Canadian hub city, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.

In an ideal world, Vancouver would be close to an ideal choice. British Columbia ranks as one of the larger areas that’s been least affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On face value, that makes Vancouver attractive. But the very caution that likely helped Vancouver/British Columbia limit the COVID-19 might make it a less desirable hub city option for the NHL.

LeBrun reports that:

  • The NHL is holding “more detailed conversations” with Edmonton and Toronto regarding their respective bids.
  • Chicago and Los Angeles are on “standby” if a Canadian hub city cannot fit the bill for the NHL.

It also sounds like Las Vegas remains a frontrunner to be one of the hub options for the NHL.

Let’s dig into why Vancouver reportedly experienced this setback.

Why NHL is reportedly less likely to go with Vancouver as a hub city

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman explained the “snag” for Vancouver as an NHL hub city on Wednesday. Friedman and Iain MacIntyre report that the stumbling block is over contingency plans if a player or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 within the hopeful “bubble” setup.

Global News BC’s Richard Zussman notes that Edmonton or Toronto might be more likely to give the NHL what they “want.” Basically, it would be easier to roll out a “show must go on” plan …

Vancouver briefly climbed the ranks because it was willing to entertain the idea of a modified bubble. Dr. Bonnie Henry explained as much in a June 10 letter.

“I am now comfortable indicating my support for this initiative as long as a very strict modified team quarantine and testing protocol as outlined in the plans is follows,” Dr. Henry wrote, via Zussman.

At the moment, it sounds like the NHL wouldn’t meet the right protocols if someone tests positive.

As you likely know, the Lightning experienced a COVID-19 outbreak last week. They closed their training facilities, but then opened things back up on Wednesday (five days later).

That sure seemed like a quick turnaround, and some host cities might be more comfortable with that approach than others. It’s possible a city’s approach could be pivotal:

This point has been hammered more than once, but a small window of time compresses these decisions.

Reports indicate that the NHL wants to make a hub city choice soon; some wondered if a call might even come this week. Other parts of the timeline remain vague, but the hope is to begin formal training camps (Phase 3) around July 10.

Making 12 teams apiece in two NHL hub city setups work sounds like a monumental challenge. It would be great if safety was the only consideration. Expediency and control appear to be important, too, and thus we’re seeing many twists and turns.

Positive tests for COVID-19, hub city issues, and more NHL return stories:

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.

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.

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

NHL TEAMS, PLAYERS TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19:

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.

Report: 10k in ticket sales the magical number for Vegas expansion team

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Bill Foley’s bid to land an NHL franchise in Las Vegas is expected to take another step next month.

Foley, the chairman of Fidelity National Financial, a Florida-based company that provides title insurance and mortgage services, is teaming up with former Sacramento Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof in an effort to land an NHL franchise in Sin City.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the league told Foley a minimum 10,000 season ticket commitments is necessary.

“If we sell the 10,000 tickets, we’ll be amazed if we don’t get a franchise,” Foley said. “It would be a shock.”

Their goal is to have an NHL club playing in the $375 million arena being built by MGM Resorts and Anschutz Entertainment Group behind New York-New York and next to Monte Carlo by the 2016-17 season.

Foley’s ticket drive begins Feb. 10.

NBC’s Dan Patrick: NHL to Vegas by 2016

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Dan Patrick believes the NHL will be in Las Vegas by 2016.

Patrick’s comments are in addition to a story which appeared in the Vancouver Province on Tuesday.

Speaking on his radio show, the Football Night in America host says the Arizona Coyotes or Carolina Hurricanes could relocate. Patrick added that Vegas and Seattle could also be targets for expansion franchises should relocation not occur.

Patrick’s comments come despite the league saying Wednesday that there is nothing imminent on the expansion front.

So if there’s nothing new on the expansion front, perhaps Patrick is onto something in terms of relocation? Only time will tell.

Las Vegas wants to build an NHL-ready arena

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While Quebec City is busy building a potential future home for the NHL and Seattle is looking to build a new arena of their own, you can add Las Vegas to the list of places looking to attract a franchise.

The Las Vegas Sun (h/t Kukla’s) reports that the Las Vegas Arena Foundation has proposed a 20,000 seat arena to be built on the Strip in Sin City in hopes of providing a home for either/both the NBA or NHL to move to. The Foundation wants to fund building the arena thanks to a sales tax hike to help pay off the $500 million estimated cost.

The Sun report says the proposed arena would have 94 luxury suites to go along with the 20,000 seats making it an ideal setup for a team to call it their home. Major professional leagues have been wary to pursue Las Vegas, however, thanks to that whole legalized gambling thing in Nevada.

As for the NHL’s interests in Vegas, the annual NHL Awards call the city home as does big time hockey fan Jerry Bruckheimer who has had ownership aspirations in the past. Vegas joins Quebec City, Seattle, Brooklyn, and Kansas City as potential future landing spots for the NHL either via relocation or expansion.

(Design courtesy of LVAF)