If there was a theme to the week in the NHL and the league’s contingency plans moving forward and hopefully through the COVID-19 crisis, it was the shift from the idea of using neutral sites to centralized locations within the pre-existing network of arenas.
ESPN reported earlier this week that Edmonton, Minnesota and Raleigh were among lead candidates being considered for use if the NHL does manage to re-start its 2019-20 season with four centralized sites, but The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun is now reporting that upwards of 12 locations are being vetted.
LeBrun includes Pittsburgh, Columbus, Dallas and Toronto among the other considered regions based on current public health situations, local infrastructure and other logistical concerns. He notes that the NHL will not rush to select these locations, and instead keep tabs on these areas navigate through the pandemic.
When it was first reported that neutral sites were being considered, the assumption was that the NHL believed that steering clear from densely-populated areas was the quickest path to resuming the season safely, so Toronto’s inclusion is interesting. But while one of the most densely-populated cities in North America, Toronto has only reported a little over 4,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and to this point it has not been hit nearly as hard as other major metropolitan areas.
Still, while Toronto could satisfy the needs of hosting a tournament-style competition for the NHL without breaking a sweat, the risks to public health may not outweigh the benefits in a region that can’t simply sacrifice all other essentials just to accommodate the event.
While the NHL will delay its decision on where to stage a prospective resumption of the season as long as possible, it will have to make at least one determination in the week ahead.
The mandated quarantine period for the players was most recently pushed back from April 15 to April 30, and perhaps it’s no guarantee that the league will simply kick the can down the road for another two weeks with its latest update to be made before next Thursday.
The next phase for the NHL is believed to be bringing players back to their home cities in order to prepare for the possibilities of staging workouts or full training camps. Players would most likely require a full two-week quarantine period following their travel, so it’s imperative that the process of bringing players back to their NHL cities begins in the near future.
Needing a full month, at minimum, to progress through a two-week travel quarantine and a full training camp, the league is slowly running out of runway, however it still seems more likely that the NHL just delays its decision by another two weeks.
TSN’s Darren Dreger reported on Thursday’s Insider Trading segment that he believes May 15 is the earliest we would see players resume training.
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