After months of speculation, the NHL’s whittled down their previously lengthy potential hub city candidate list to just two: and neither are in the United States.
Growing virus concerns in most major metropolitan areas, including front runner Las Vegas, have led the NHL to settle on Toronto as the Eastern Conference hub city and Edmonton as the Western Conference hub city.
Currently the outbreak of COVID-19 is resurgent in the United States, and concerns may have been raised by players regarding their safety. The NHL’s still on phase two of re-opening, which means players are back for small group workouts and practices. They’re not under any sort of team-mandated lockdown or quarantine, so the current round of testing is picking up positives among players. As of June 29th, 26 players have tested positive for the virus according to the league.
It stands to reason, then, that the league would want to hold the playoffs in locations where the spread of the virus has been less than that of major US metro areas. Currently the seven-day moving average of cases in Toronto is 58 new cases a day. In Alberta yesterday they reported 41 new cases for the province, though these have been tied to Edmonton restaurants.
In Las Vegas, which was previously considered a front-runner due to its hotel situation, the COVID-19 situation has been growing (specific numbers unavailable due to technical difficulties on their region’s dashboard website as of the time of this writing). The governor of Nevada, Steve Sisolak, has held their re-opening at phase 2 through the end of July and is also currently requiring face masks to be worn whenever in public.
This is a big loss for some hurting US cities’ economies right now, but from a safety standpoint it’s a no-brainer. It would help limit disruptions and distractions if the teams didn’t have to find a way to deal with potential COVID-19 outbreaks happening with regularity.