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NHL Narrows Hub City Options to Six

The NHL has been on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic but they are moving closer to their potential return. As it stands, the league plans to bring their expanded 24-team playoff field to a pair of hub cities next month. Training camp is slated to begin on July 10. If everything goes well at that point, the plan to get NHL games back on the ice for the qualifying round of the postseason is scheduled to begin on July 30. Those series will be best-of-five series with the teams that held the top four spots in each conference battling in a round-robin tournament for seeding.

At this point in time, we know that they will be playing in two cities, with the Eastern Conference playing their postseason in one city and the Western Conference in the other. On Tuesday, we moved a little closer to knowing what cities might end up hosting the playoffs for their respective conferences. The league is down to six cities to potentially host the playoffs as they eliminated Pittsburgh and Dallas from the field on Tuesday, according to sources that spoke with ESPN’s Emily Kaplan.

It marked the second straight day that a pair of cities were eliminated from the field. On Monday, Columbus and Minneapolis/St. Paul suffered a similar fate and were knocked out of contention to host the postseason in some form or fashion. That leaves just a half-dozen cities, with three cities in the United States and three in Canada left to battle in the mix. The cities in the United States are Chicago, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, while Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton are the Canadian cities vying for consideration at this point in time.

Vegas remains the likely frontrunner in the United States, especially given the league’s history and good relations with the city. It hosts the NHL Awards every year and the presence of the Golden Knights has been a major boost for the league. The fact that Vegas made the Stanley Cup Finals in their first season of existence didn’t hamper things for the relationship in any way, shape or form. There’s also no shortage of hotel rooms in the city and there is the capability for enough ice for them to put teams on the ice.

Among the Canadian cities, Toronto is the likely candidate as the frontrunner given the abundance of rinks in the area. After all, the Maple Leafs and their AHL team, the Marlies, are in the city and there is no shortage of other arenas thanks to junior teams from the OHL in close proximity throughout the province. Edmonton and Vancouver have had lower rates of the coronavirus but neither city is an overwhelming tourist destination with the array of hotels that Toronto offers. Canadian cities are considered to be viable options as the government has stated that they will allow the league to quarantine internally.

If one had to gamble as to what cities would end up getting the nod from the league at this point in time, one has to lean toward Vegas and Toronto. As for what the answer to the question about which cities get the call, we’ll likely get the answer later this week.

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Chris Kubala

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