VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Even though it’s one of the shortlisted hub cities for the NHL, Vancouver’s is unlikely to host any games once play resumes because of its current public health orders, according to one sports insider.
Sportsnet Canucks Hockey host Dan Murphy says Las Vegas and Columbus look to be at the top of the list as the NHL narrows it down to two hub cities to host games for the Western and Eastern conferences respectively.
Las Vegas and Columbus look to be the front-runners as the NHL eyeballs hub cities to finish the current season. #Vancouver is on the shortlist but it’s really unlikely games will be played here. Chatting w/ @sportsnetmurph about all this on @NEWS1130. BG: https://t.co/SMJu4qaz23 pic.twitter.com/4PCOQDtKu4
— Sonia Aslam (@SoniaSAslam) May 27, 2020
Murphy says the league is likely holding out to make that call in hopes Canada can host games.
“I think so. I think they’re going to wait until the last minute because they really do want a Canadian city, but we also heard Dr. Bonnie Henry say it would be great but we’re not going to undo all this great work that’s been done by giving special exemptions. Again, that could change in two or three weeks. [NHL Commission Gary] Bettman said they’re not going to name these hub cities for maybe upwards of a month. We’ll have to wait and see, but I do think there is a desire, I think, amongst the players, amongst the league to have one of the hub cities be in Canada. But things have to change in this country at the federal level in terms of what they’re saying, even at the provincial level, before that is going to happen,” he explains.
Edmonton and Toronto are the other Canadian cities on the list.
Murphy adds while the league does want a city north of the border to host, if the 49th parallel is still closed — which is a decision made by the federal government — that’s really going to complicate things.
“Well, if the border is closed to the States until June 21 and they extend that, well what happens with players coming from the States like J.T. Miller, or Thatcher Demko or Adam Gaudette who may not be able to get up to Vancouver for training camp which is expected to start in the first half of July. That’s no question. If they extend this then can those players in America who are trying to get up for camp even make it here?”
Some players are currently overseas, like Elias Pettersson, who is home in Sweden. If he was to return, he would have to let the health officials know upon landing at Vancouver International Airport what his plan is to self-quarantine and that plan would have to be approved.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has already said hockey players will not be deemed essential workers to cross the border. Even if players did cross the border, they would have to follow the same rules as everyone else of quarantining for two weeks.
“[Players] are not deemed essential services like they have been in the States. The bottom line is this, unless [health officials] think it’s safe, it’s not going to happen. If it’s safe, then yes, they can start to ease restrictions and say this is going to happen,” Murphy says, adding he thinks it’s unlikely public health orders will change in the next few weeks. “I guess you can hold out the remote hope that it could happen and things could change in the next three or four weeks to let the league say it can happen.”
Murphy says Las Vegas seems to be the prime candidate, given the hotel capacity and close proximity to the rinks. “Especially if guys can bring their families and the resorts are open to the NHL players and their families and they can put them safely in one place. You could have a hotel to house every single player, staff member, and family in one place if you wanted to, and, I think that probably looks advantageous for that city,” Murphy says, explaining Columbus has similar advantages. “They do have a practice rink right there as well. You could have pre-game skates at the practice rink while games are going on if you’re doing Olympic-style, three games in one day to get these out of the way.”
However, one of the pros of hosting in Canada are costs would be low because of the dollar and remember the bills are being footed by the owners. Other advantages of Vancouver hosting include the availability of rinks, the fact the city has previously hosted major events like the Olympics and COVID-19 case numbers are much lower compared to many other jurisdictions.
Murphy says he believes Vegas will be a hub city, but the other choice is still up in the air. “I think everybody would like to see Vancouver [host], I mean it’s going to help some people especially with work but I’m always going to side with the experts on this one. If they say it’s not safe, then Vancouver will have to wait and see where else it goes.”
If and when the league resumes play, the Canucks would take on the Minnesota Wild. On Tuesday, the NHL announced the 2019-2020 season ended in March when teams last played. Commissioner Gary Bettman also outlined a multi-phase plan that would see 24 teams, not 16, enter the post-season this summer with games not likely to be played until late July or August and the Stanley Cup awarded possibly in September.