The NHL and NHLPA have intensified discussions on a potential plan to resume the season, and Toronto and Columbus are the main contenders for becoming two of the host cities, according to New York Post’s Larry Brooks.
Initial reports indicated that up to 12 NHL cities were screened as possible destinations.
The latest proposal circulating this week has discussed the idea of the NHL using up to four main cities and causing teams to park in each to play the rest of the games. Cities will need to have an existing NHL team, rather than using neutral sites that we talked about earlier.
Commissioner Gary Bettman told Sportsnet’s Ron MacLean on Wednesday that the cities they are looking for must meet certain requirements to be considered. City can’t be a hotspot for COVID-19, arenas would need at least four NHL caliber locker rooms and nearby training facilities that meet NHL standards, and a four or five hotel would be required suitable stars nearby to house players.
As part of this idea, teams will organize training camps for up to three weeks at their assigned central location before the start of games.
The NHL will also have to listen to local governing bodies when making decisions. After the league began exploring Edmonton and Calgary as potential destinations, the Alberta chief medical officer said gatherings of more than 15 people will be banned until at least September, ultimately excluding the two cities.
One of the glaring issues on the NHLPA return to play agenda in the midst of the pandemic is the concern of a number of players with pre-existing health conditions. This includes players such as Max Domi, who has type 1 diabetes, and Brian Boyle, who was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in 2017 but has been in remission since 2018.
A number of questions also remain unanswered. A decision needs to be made regarding European players and if they can return, what the daily life will look like for players quarantined in hotels for weeks and how the league will handle the testing of its players and staff. Brooks added that these questions will all be part of the discussions in the coming days.
The NHL and NHLPA will continue to hold conference calls in the near future to determine if a return is a plausible scenario.