It was Las Vegas for sure – until it wasn’t. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Toronto and Edmonton will be the two hub cities for the NHL’s Return to Play post-season plan, with the Oilers likely (as much as that word can be used these days) hosting the conference finals and Stanley Cup final.
While the specific destinations hold no advantage for either franchise (no fans will be in the stands and none of the players will be sleeping at home during the duration of the tournament), the Oilers and Maple Leafs will reportedly be the two hub hosts once NHL action returns.
Las Vegas, which had been a favorite almost from the get-go, fell out of favor recently and it’s hard not to imagine that Nevada’s massive spike in Covid-19 cases recently was a driving factor. While players will be exiled in a ‘bubble’ situation during the tournament, it’s understandable that the athletes themselves would want to be placed in as safe a situation as possible during these unprecedented times.
Some of the highest daily caseloads in Clark County (where Las Vegas is located) have been in the past week, with nearly 500 new cases on Monday alone.
On the flip side, Toronto has seen its caseload steadily decline in the past few months, going from one of Canada’s hot-spots to a much more manageable number. There were just 71 new cases reported on Wednesday, for example. Meanwhile, Edmonton has been relatively untouched by Covid-19 throughout the worldwide pandemic. The Northern Alberta city has recorded just over 1,000 cases total since the crisis began, while Calgary, just three hours to the south, has experienced five times that amount.
But the major benefit for going with two Canadian cities is that no team will have to cross a border once the tournament begins (it goes without saying this would be the same with two American cities).
As for the hubs themselves, both locations are set up nicely for a big tournament. Toronto has hosted the world juniors and the World Cup of Hockey in recent years, proving that Scotiabank Centre is capable of housing multiple teams at the same time. Similarly, Edmonton is scheduled to host the world juniors this December at Rogers Arena, where the same needs have to be met.