And then there were six. This is the number of cities the NHL still has on its list of potential hubs where the season can wrap up after it eliminated Dallas and Pittsburgh along with two others that were in contention. The hockey league is determined to see teams get back on the ice to compete for the Stanley Cup this year, but time is running out. With increased coronavirus cases appearing across the US once again, the options are dwindling fast. Even the NHL is having to deal with its own internal COVID-19 dilemma, as 11 players have now tested positive for the virus.
The NHL Is Struggling Amid COVID-19
While MLB still can’t figure out what it wants to do this year, although a final decision could come sometime today, the NHL has been determined to say puck it and get players back on the ice. It needs to come up with two cities where games could be held, and began with a short list of ten options that seemed to be ideal candidates. However, Columbus, OH and Minneapolis, MN were scratched because of coronavirus spikes there, and Dallas and Pittsburgh fell for similar reasons.
Pittsburgh is home to the Penguins and would have been more than welcome to host some games. When the announcement was made that it had been eliminated, the team’s president and CEO, David Morehouse, took the political high road, saying in a statement, “We know Pittsburgh would have been a great host city because of our fans and the support we received from the local business community, unions and our political leaders. We thank Commissioner Bettman and the NHL for considering us as one of the finalists, which is a reflection on how great of a city Pittsburgh truly is. We now look forward to training camp and getting back to game action.”
Both Texas and Pennsylvania are among the states that have seen the most coronavirus cases –Texas has reported over 116,000 and Pennsylvania has seen more than 82,000. The need to keep NHL players and league-related personnel in a bubble is difficult enough during the COVID-19 pandemic; having to contend with larger groups of possible infections is a risk that the league isn’t willing to take.
The Next Round Of Cuts Is Coming
Still in the running are Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and three in Canada – Edmonton, Toronto and Vancouver. However, half of these, based on the number of coronavirus infections, could be eliminated quickly. Chances are good that one of the Canadian cities will make the final cut.
Canada is willing to compromise in order to bring the NHL to the country, possibly foregoing mandatory COVID-19 quarantines to make it happen. As a country, Canada has fewer cases – with 101,637 – than does Texas, and Ontario (33,637) is one of the areas that is struggling the most with COVID-19. Toronto is the capital of Ontario, which means that it might not make the grade, despite a huge market. This could mean that Edmonton or Vancouver will be selected.
To the south, LA is having difficulty. LA County has over 78,000 cases and has reported more than 3,000 deaths from the coronavirus. The state, overall, is one of the hardest-hit and, while a huge target because of the infrastructure, LA might not be able to survive.
Las Vegas has always been toward the top of the list of potential hubs for the NHL. However, Nevada recently reopened its commercial market, and the results haven’t been favorable. There have been spikes in COVID-19 cases across the state, especially in Las Vegas, which might make the NHL shy away from hosting games in Sin City. On the positive side, there is no shortage of hotels or arenas that could be converted to ice-skating rinks, giving Las Vegas plenty of options compared to other locations.
Then there’s Chicago, which sits in Cook County. The county has seen almost 87,500 coronavirus cases and around 4,420 deaths. That makes it worse off than LA, but there is an advantage to hosting games in the Windy City. It would put some of the playoff games closer to the East Coast, which means more people can watch the competitions. That translates into a significant amount of money for the league, which is certainly something that will be considered when the final decision is made.