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JONES: Pros and cons of the 10 NHL hub city candidates

In Terry Jones’ view, Edmonton and Rogers Place check off all of the key requirement boxes to serve as one of the NHL’s hub cities. We’ll see if the league agrees when a decision is announced in a few weeks.  
In Terry Jones’ view, Edmonton and Rogers Place check off all of the key requirement boxes to serve as one of the NHL’s hub cities. We’ll see if the league agrees when a decision is announced in a few weeks.  

It’s a 10-horse race.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman revealed on Tuesday that there are 10 official entries to be examined for the two hub-city locations to be selected to play host to the rebooted and reconfigured 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.

In addition to Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton in Canada there have been entries filed by Los Angeles, Vegas, Minnesota, Dallas, Chicago, Columbus and Pittsburgh.

So, what’s involved with the 10 teams that showed up at the entry box and will now be handicapped over the next three or four weeks before Bettman says the final decision will be made?

THE LONGSHOTS

Los Angeles

PROS: A surprise entry with the Kings out of the playoffs, the main attraction might be that the no team would have home ice advantage. Los Angeles features L.A. Live, similar to Edmonton’s Ice District, across the street from the Staple Centre, complete with five-star J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Hotels with 1,000-plus rooms and subterranean connection to the arena. L.A. Live has a multitude of restaurants and entertainment. The Staples Centre has the back-of-the- house requirements for TV. And while it would mean booting the Kings, Lakers and Clippers out of their digs, there are no lack of dressing rooms.

CONS: Los Angeles is currently the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in California with numbers spiking to 4,266 positive tests Wednesday. There’s also the fact that all eight known positive tests on NHL players were to those who visited the Staples Centre in the days before the shutdown. Not a good association. The Kings’ practice facility is also located 30 minutes away, always with traffic, in El Segundo, a.k.a. ‘Where the sewer meets the sea.’

Chicago

PROS: United Center is still an exceptional hockey building and there’s now a great new two-sheet practice facility just two blocks away. Hotels are a considerable distance away but world class and restaurants are legendary. Chicago is a popular city with most NHL players.

CONS: Chicago’s COVID-19 numbers are brutal. The city is still pretty much in lockdown with 4,014 positive tests last week and it’s hard to picture it as a viable option within three or four weeks.

Dallas

PROS: The American Airlines Centre is first rate and Dallas now has two practice sheets (albeit out in Frisco) and good arena in Allen where ECHL Allen Americans play. Good hotels adjacent to all three facilities.

CONS: Average daily high temperature in July, August and September is 30ºC, so ice quality with three games a day would be a concern. Dallas also reached a daily high of 1,801 positive tests last week.

THE CONTENDERS

Toronto

PROS: With Scotiabank Arena, nearby Coca-Cola Coliseum on the CNE grounds and the Maple Leafs’ four-pad practice rink out in Etobicoke, Toronto has the available arenas. And there’s an abundance of high-end hotels near the rink including a twin-tower Westin within walking distance. Being the Canadian television capital is also likely a major plus.

CONS: Available testing without stepping in line ahead of local citizens is a concern and the Ontario government’s own testing goals have fallen short, especially in the Greater Toronto Area. There were 2,760 positive tests conducted on May 3 that have been reduced to about a third of that, but there have also been the recent optics of photos of the city’s ‘covidiots’ packing Trinity Bellwoods Park on Saturday published around the world.

Vancouver

PROS: One of the world’s most beautiful cities with family-friendly Stanley Park, a host of high-end hotels and a significant hosting history including the Winter Olympics. Vancouver is easy on the eyes and the time zone would work for spreading the games out for TV purposes. COVID-19 positive test results dropped from 2,750 on May 3 to 936 on Wednesday so the numbers are trending in the right direction.

CONS: Lack of a downtown practice facility might be the biggest drawback. It would be a bussing nightmare to the three sheets of ice at UBC and Burnaby’s 8-Rinks where dressing room space is a problem. Dressing rooms and other back-of-the-house facilities — including television components — are underwhelming in Rogers Arena, as well.

Columbus

PROS: Nationwide Arena has a practice rink attached to it so that’s a major plus. Ohio State has a huge arena just a few miles away and there are several nice suburban arenas available for practices, as well. Virus numbers have been relatively low (529 positive tests Wednesday) compared to other U.S. centres.

CONS: Although there are several high-end hotels within a few blocks of the rink, there’s only the 532-room Hilton within a 10-minute walking distance and that’s not going to happily house 12 hockey teams. The biggie is that Ohio’s coronavirus testing is regarded as one of the worst in the country.

Minnesota

PROS: First-rate set-up at Xcel Energy Centre with spacious visitors dressing room and two other full auxiliary dressing rooms. The Wild’s practice rink is two blocks away. but there are all sorts of options for practices and training camps. It’s the ‘State Of Hockey.’ Per capita, Minnesota has seen near the fewest COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

CONS: Hotels are scattered. There’s the St. Paul Hotel across the road from the rink where most teams stay and Intercontinental in downtown St. Paul with plenty of four-star hotels 20 minutes away in Minneapolis and five-star J.W. Marriott at Mall of America. Trending in the wrong direction with the recent rioting due to the death of George Floyd and there have been a rise in coronavirus active cases (up to 840 this week) lately.

THE FAVOURITES

Pittsburgh

PROS: Interesting bid for several reasons. One is that it’s in the middle of an Eastern seaboard state and not near the COVID-19 high-risk areas of New York, Philadelphia and New Jersey. Pittsburgh has had a relatively low rate of infection with 451 positive cases on Wednesday. Eastern time zone spreads six-game day schedule better with one hub in West. The arena has played host to several large hockey events including two Stanley Cup finals and an NCAA Frozen Four. The Penguins are said to have a very close relationship with UPMC health system that has an international reputation. Pittsburgh has a very compact downtown with several hotels within easy walking distance of the arena.

CONS: Penguins’ practice arena is 25-minutes away as is Robert Morris University Arena rink.

Las Vegas

PROS: The No. 1 selling point is that all 12 teams, their support staffs and families could all stay in one hotel complex, the Mandalay Bay that has 4,741 rooms and suites. Obviously, there’s no lack of entertainment options for off-days and between series. And thanks to a donation of more than 200,000 testing kits valued at $20 million made by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to Nevada, coronavirus testing ought not be a problem. While lack of ice availability would have been a problem for practice and training a couple of years ago, the Golden Knights opened a $50-million two-sheet facility. Fans from the 12 teams could come to Vegas, watch games at the casino sports books and bet on six of them every day.

CONS: New Golden Knights practice complex is 20-30 minutes away. An average high of 41ºC in July, 40ºC in August and 36ºC in September and no history of ice conditions in August would be a concern. Would there be the possibility of players having to skate around to clear the fog? Also in Vegas you have to go through casinos to get to hotel elevators and coronavirus transmissions might be a concern. While Vegas did well to reduce new positive tests from 2,347 on April 17 to just 146 on Wednesday, it’ll be interesting to follow that number with Vegas about to re-open and the gamblers returning from throughout the world.

Edmonton

PROS: The one place that checks all the boxes. Rogers Place features exceptional facilities including four NHL-calibre dressing rooms. In all, Rogers Place has 11 dressing rooms with four more at the community rink. There are four green rooms for entertainers that could be transformed into coaching offices, etc. Edmonton would allow each team to have a home base dressing room and then move into a game day dressing room. The visitors room was voted by the NHLPA as the best in the league. The new building also features exceptional broadcasting capabilities with plug-and-play connectivity and indoor parking for five production trucks and three TV studios, plus several others at the practice rink that is a part of the complex. A five-star J.W. Marriott across the pedway and two other hotels attached by walkways within two blocks. By far the lowest coronavirus numbers (32 new cases, five hospital beds in use and only one in intensive care Wednesday) and no need for players and their families to lock themselves in their rooms. Golf tee times and family outings to West Edmonton Mall and river valley outings being arranged. Plenty of testing and lab facilities available. Ice ranked No. 2 (21.7% to Montreal’s 28%) in NHLPA poll and Hlinka-Gretzky U-18 eight-team tournament a successful test event. Ice District available for teams to relax and watch other games on giant video boards. Average high temperature 24ºC in July, 23ºC in August and 18ºC in September.

CONS: None. Unless the federal government doesn’t waive the 14-day quarantine for the 12 teams coming from quarantined training camp conditions, in which case there will be no Hub City games anywhere in Canada.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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