Happy Canada Day, hockey fans: NHL close to naming Edmonton, Toronto as hub cities, says TSN

The equivalent of waking up to gifts under the tree Christmas morning for Canadian hockey fans is waking up July 1 to speculation its country could host both NHL playoff hubs.

Barring last-minute complications, Edmonton and Toronto are expected to host the rest of National Hockey League playoffs, say insiders.

Although nothing is official yet, a spike in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has seemed to push the NHL’s plans north of the American-Canadian border.

But, as TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie is keeping in mind, there is always the potential for plans to turn south.

"In 2020 if we've learned anything, you can never account for cataclysmic things that can happen that change things on the fly," he commented.  "We've certainly seen that."

Most recently, Vancouver fell out of the running as it was rumored discussions hit a "snag" over provincial health plans.

According to McKenzie, a decision could be made by the end of the week.

Barring any last-minute complications, and we have seen some of those (Vancouver and Las Vegas), the two NHL Hub cities will be Edmonton and Toronto. ����

— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) July 1, 2020

Edmonton’s proposal reportedly boasts ice surfaces at Rogers Place in the ICE District and Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre. Alberta Health has cleared a plan for international players, staff and family – estimated to be about 600 people – to quarantine, then live as a large cohort in a NHL bubble.

However, playoffs in the hubs doesn’t come until Phase 4 of the NHL’s return-to-play plan. As McKenzie explained, teams would choose for themselves where to hold training camps as part of Phase 2 – and a spike in U.S. coronavirus cases could derail Phase 4.

"If they're in U.S. cities like in Florida or Texas or Arizona and they're interacting with the public, how many more positive tests might we see before phase 4? And could that diminish the efforts to get the game back on ice?"

Responding to the speculation a day earlier, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson called the growth in U.S. COVID-19 cases tragic and distressing, but that to be able to host the NHL would be a welcome opportunity to both Canadian cities.

"We’re not often united between Toronto and Edmonton – but if we’re all being good Canadians, it’d be a great Canada Day reward to this country and to these cities for the work our citizens have done to keep counts low to have the opportunity to – bisect all the right restrictions for their own protection and public protection – welcome the NHL for Hockey night in Canada, eh."

Nothing carved in stone just yet, but if there are no hiccups in finalizing the tentative agreement, NHLPA membership could be voting on RTP/CBA/transition/critical dates by Friday or Saturday.

— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) July 1, 2020

INSTANT ANALYSIS: @TSNRyanRishaug explains the major advantage Edmonton had compared to other potential #NHL hub cities as the league prepares for Return to Play: https://t.co/FUWRJrV8WU#TSNHockey pic.twitter.com/RQdPtpa1u1

— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) July 1, 2020

The recent surges in COVID-19 cases in American states have resulted in 19 jurisdictions pausing or rolling back reopening plans. The nation’s top infectious disease doctor has warned if more measures aren’t taken, the country could count 100,000 new cases a day.

By comparison, Alberta has seen 8,100 cases of the new coronavirus in total (of which 1,028 were recorded in the Edmonton health zone), Ontario 35,000, and Canada some 104,000.

The NHL shortened its list of potential hub cities from 10 to six on June 21 to include Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver, Vegas, Los Angeles and Chicago.

The NHL wants training camp to start July 10, followed by playoffs.

Two hub cities would host the playoff teams over a series of weeks before a Stanley Cup winner is announced.

With a report from CTV News Edmonton’s Carlyle Fiset 

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