Why Chicago could still be named a Hub City under NHL's Return To Play plan

Scott King
NBC Sports Chicago

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Sin City will be named a hub city for the NHL's 24-team playoff format by June 22. Other outlets have yet to confirm the news.

If there's still a chance another city could be chosen to be the Western Conference host, Chicago would be among those that make the most sense.

There will be two hub cities under the NHL's Return To Play plan, one for the Western Conference and one for the East. The West would host Eastern teams and vice versa to do away with any residing home ice advantage with fans gone. 

The Hawks are set to take on the Edmonton Oilers in a best-of-5 play-in round.

Chicago was among the 10 cities the NHL named as finalists to be a hub city, along with:

- Columbus, OH
- Dallas, TX
- Edmonton, AB
- Las Vegas, NV
- Los Angeles, CA
- Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
- Pittsburgh, PA
- Toronto, ON
- Vancouver, BC

According to The Athletic, nothing has been finalized and the NHLPA executive board is expected to discuss potential hub locations shortly. 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot remains hopeful that the Windy City could land the grand scale hosting duty.

"We're very excited at the possibility and have really tried to make the case for why Chicago should be chosen," the mayor told The Athletic on Saturday. "I'm hopeful we'll be successful.

"Although I expect the playoffs to be probably fan-less, we're still very well situated to accommodate the league and the players. We have plenty of hotel space and got a great culture life here. I think everything they would want to put on with a best-in-class playoff experience is here in Chicago."

Chicago was likely named a finalist, and should still be considered, for it's vast accommodations that would suit league employees, teams and players.

Upscale hotels with easy access to restaurants, plus multiple rinks and dressing rooms should make Chicago a top contender. The United Center has four locker rooms alone, not to mention the more than suitable accommodations at the Hawks' practice facility Fifth Third Arena. Their former practice rinks Johnny's IceHouse West and Johnny's IceHouse East could serve as additional game/practice locations if needed.

From the Illinois Department of Public Health's most recent record, there were 623 newly reported COVID-19 cases in Illinois on Tuesday. On June 5, there were 1,156 new cases reported. 

"If I didn't feel like we were on a downward trajectory both in terms of number of cases, new cases reported and all the other public-health metrics, I would not feel comfortable," Lightfoot said. "But we have worked extraordinarily hard over these last three months to put us in a position, and first and foremost our priority is our residents, that our residents would have confidence that we have engaged in a robust public-health response to this deadly virus.

"That work continues. No one in the world can declare victory because we don't have a vaccine yet, so we all have to remain extraordinarily diligent in making sure that we are continuing to be transparent and from a city perspective that we're supportive of the entire health care infrastructure. That's what's served us well over these last few months and that will continue to be an important part of our response to COVID."

On June 22, we'll see if Vegas wins the luck of the draw as some expect, or if Chicago has a shot.

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Why Chicago could still be named a Hub City under NHL's Return To Play plan originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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