In choosing two playoff hubs from 10 finalists the NHL will give weight to the trend of COVID-19 cases and the availability of testing. Those numbers remain fluid. Also, it’s unclear if recent looting in the American cities will hurt their bids. Here are key pluses and minuses for all 10:
Chicago: Its location is convenient and being on Central time works for staggering start times for TV. The Blackhawks’ two-sheet practice facility is near the United Center; fine hotels and restaurants are plentiful downtown. A negative: Cook County, which includes Chicago, has been hit hard by the coronavirus.
Columbus: The Blue Jackets’ practice facility is connected to Nationwide Arena, and nearby Ohio State has a top-notch rink. Finding large blocks of hotel rooms could be difficult.
Dallas: Also a central location, but the practice rinks aren’t near downtown or the competition rink, the American Airlines Center.
Edmonton: A strong contender if Canada eliminates its requirement that those entering the country self-isolate for 14 days. Rogers Place, opened in 2016, is equipped for technology needs and has sufficient locker room space. An adjacent community rink would provide practice ice. Choosing a Canadian city allows the NHL to honor its roots.
Las Vegas: The reopening of casinos and resorts is making loads of hotel rooms available. T-Mobile Arena hosted the Stanley Cup Final in 2018 and handles big events well, though summer heat would test the refrigeration system. Practice rinks are good but about 30 minutes away. Likely a favorite among players.
Los Angeles: Staples Center would be a neutral site and is accustomed to hosting big events. It has three large team locker rooms, two smaller visitors’ rooms, and “star” rooms for support personnel. There are plenty of hotel rooms across the street at LA Live. The Kings’ practice facility in El Segundo has three ice sheets, one fewer than the NHL wants. Traffic getting there is a big drawback.
Minneapolis-St. Paul: The land of 10,000 lakes has a lot of rinks but lacks hotel space in St. Paul near Xcel Energy Center and the Wild’s practice rink. Playing there would create a buzz among hockey-savvy fans.
Pittsburgh: Strong credentials. Also experienced at handling big events and has many hotels within walking distance of PPG Arena. Practice rinks are about 30 minutes out of town, which doesn’t fit the NHL’s aim of keeping things compact.
Toronto: Center of the Hockey Universe gets big points for being Canadian media capital and having ample hotel space and practice options.
Vancouver: Another favorite road stop for NHL players and a beautiful city. But the lack of practice facilities downtown could be a negative.