Has all been too quiet on the western front?
Are you beginning to wonder if Edmonton hasn’t been aggressively trying to secure official NHL Pod City status for a reboot of the season because of the lack of public posturing by the politicians and other important people in the process?
Relax. The idea hasn’t been to sell Oilers fans on the bid. The concept has been to convince Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and those that will be making the decision.
Edmonton is on track to put itself in position to host the remaining games involving Pacific Division teams and/or to be a hub for Stanley Cup playoff games to follow should the league be able to complete the 2019-20 season this summer.
“We are deep in the thick of it,” said Oilers spokesman Tim Shipton when approached for an update Tuesday in anticipation of a decision to be made soon.
“There’s lots of momentum.
“We coordinated the call between Premier Jason Kenny and Commissioner Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Daly. All the teams that are interested have now submitted bids. We are ahead of where other jurisdictions are at vis-à-vis health protocols.
“We’re in constant communication with government. We have a working framework with the government. We’re going back and forth on it. It lays out the process to get a sign off. It’s definitely a complex process. But Edmonton has so much going for it — world-class facilities, world-leading testing, great collaboration between government and the Oilers Entertainment Group and low COVID-19 numbers.”
For the past week, with the provincial numbers down to low double figures, the city of Edmonton itself has been averaging one positive test per day. And that’s with exceptionally high numbers of tests per capita.
Back when the NHL Hub City idea first went into the gate, Edmonton was considered to be the odds-on favourite. There’s no reason to believe that has changed but there’s no doubt there’s been no lack of teams at the entry box.
When indicated the league intended to use four NHL arenas as hubs for the remaining 189 NHL games on the schedule, the set-up in Edmonton was deemed to be ideal with state-of-the-art Rogers Place.
It was virtually unanimous that nobody could compete with Edmonton’s number and quality of dressing rooms and the built-in first-rate practice facility. The entire set-up had been tried-and-tested Hlinka-Gretzky Cup eight-team U-18 August tournament on excellent ice last year. The pedway to the five-star J.W. Marriott hotel was unmatched.
But Edmonton has sexy city bid opposition as a host hub for games even though the concept involved is to totally isolate everybody from the public and play without fans in the stands. Both Vancouver and Las Vegas have made moves to host a rebooted season with Hub City action featuring as many as three games a day in the selected empty buildings.
It has been reported that the number of NHL cities that made bids to be a hub reached “double figures.”
Considering there would be no members of the paying public in the place and minimal economic impact, apparently every city that could check off a few of the boxes, decided it wanted to be a hub. If there was any thought that all Edmonton might have to do was put a hand in the air simply did not end up being the case.
Still, Shipton characterized the talks as having been “very positive” but revealed no details.
“We’re working collaboratively with the province and city on the bid but it primarily has been a collaboration with the province as they have to sign off on the protocols. That work is well underway,” he said.
Nobody seems to be sure on what the timeline is on this but expectations in a couple of markets appear that they’re expecting some final questioning from the NHL this week with a decision to follow.
But while it’s now been more than 60 days since there have been any pucks on the ice, there are no lack of pucks in the air. It’s getting close to decision time for the NHL in a lot of different directions including when to hold both the draft lottery and entry draft.
You’d figure if the NHL wanted to complete a full 82-game schedule starting no later than July 1, they’d have to get players back to their club cities for 14-day quarantines and back on the ice in small groups in time for at least a two-week training camp to follow. The clock would begin ticking on that late next week.
There’s also the thought of reducing the number of regular season games and eliminating the well-out-of-the-playoff teams with players that aren’t exactly embracing the idea of coming back for a dozen exhibition games. And players aren’t in any hurry to sign up for two or three months of separation from wives and kids either.
There’s also the growing speculation of proceeding to the playoffs with 24 teams involved and half of them forced to go through a best-of-three play-in-process.
And, of course, there’s still the big question with COVID-19 itself.
You could be selected as a Hub City and the NHL could lose the entire season and then what did you win?
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