VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The NHL has begun winnowing its possible locations to resume the season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and Vancouver and the other two potential Canadian cities are still in the running.
The Blue Jackets were informed Monday that Columbus will not be one of the NHL’s hub cities. Columbus was one of 10 finalists, including seven in the U.S.
Minnesota and Dallas have also been ruled out, according to reports.
The NHL has informed the Penguins, as well, that Pittsburgh will not be a hub city for the league’s Return to Play plan, according to a tweet.
The @NHL has informed the Penguins that Pittsburgh will not be a hub city for the league’s Return to Play plan.
The Penguins submitted an aggressive proposal, with tremendous support from UPMC, PPG, and local business/political/union leaders.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) June 23, 2020
Las Vegas is now considered the U.S. favourite to host NHL games, unless two Canadian cities are selected.
Canada’s federal government last week said it would allow the league to quarantine internally, making Toronto, Vancouver, and Edmonton realistic possibilities — if not the front-runners.
“Vancouver is a great destination for sport hosting,” B.C. Tourism Minister Lisa Beare said Tuesday.
She maintained the modified quarantine plan put forward by the NHL and approved by the federal government — allowing players to isolate together in a bubble — exceeds provincial expectations.
The NHL has said it will select two hub cities — one for the Eastern Conference playoffs and one for the Western Conference. The Stanley Cup Final or “final four” would likely be in one of the two cities.
B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry approved a plan from the Canucks for Vancouver to be a possible NHL hub city last week.
Vancouver was short-listed for one of two NHL hub cities last month as commissioner Gary Bettman outlined a four-phase plan that will see games resume in the summer.
Meanwhile, the NHL will allow on-ice practice sessions to include up to 12 players starting Tuesday.
Small-group workouts have been limited to six players per session since they began on June 8.
The NHL’s decision to expand the number of players allowed at practice sessions is a continuation of Phase 2 of the league’s return-to-play plan. Phase 3, the reopening of training camps, is scheduled to begin July 10.
On Friday, the Tampa Bay Lightning temporarily shut down their training facilities after three players and additional staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Also on Friday, the NHL announced more than 200 players have been tested and 11 have tested positive since June 8.