It looks like the New York Rangers will need to book plane tickets to Toronto, This is due to a report by TSN’s Bob McKenzie that two Canadian cities, Toronto and Edmonton, have been chosen as the hubs that will field 12 teams each, assuming players ratify soon-to-be presented “return to play” protocols and an extension to the collective bargaining agreement.
Toronto and Edmonton are expected to be announced as the NHL hub cities for the hockey leagues return-to-play plan. 12 teams from each conference would go to the two hubs to compete against each other. pic.twitter.com/VjPSLZgUme
— 6ixBuzzTV (@6ixbuzztv) July 1, 2020
As most know, things can change rapidly in the ever-evolving coronavirus pandemic. For example, a week ago Las Vegas and Vancouver were considered the leaders to be host hubs. 12 Conference teams were going to stay at the Las Vegas Park MGM Hotel and the league was going to operate the entire plaza around the hotel and T-Mobile Arena. But Vegas was eliminated from contention in the past few days because of the sudden spike of COVID-19 cases and reports that hotel and casino employees at other hotels were testing positive for the virus. It made the league realize that it defeated the purpose of a bubble if not all hotel staff involved with the teams were going to live in the bubble for two months.
Barring any last-minute complications, and we have seen some of those (Vancouver and Las Vegas), the two NHL Hub cities will be Edmonton and Toronto. 🇨🇦
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) July 1, 2020
In the meantime, both Toronto and Edmonton have seen their COVID-19 cases reach a manageable level. It is assumed that Toronto will host the Eastern Conference teams, which of course is where the Rangers would head. However, there have been some rumblings that some are not overly thrilled with the Oilers and Maple Leafs having “home-ice advantage”, even if there will be no fans in the stands throughout the playoffs. This could allow the conferences to switch, with the Rangers playing in Edmonton.
According to McKenzie, the NHL’s restart plan would see tightly controlled bubbles created in both cities. Teams would be restricted to bringing 50 personnel apiece into the “bubble” at the Ice District in Edmonton and Toronto’s CNE grounds, including rosters featuring 28 skaters and as many goalies as each chooses, and every member of the traveling party would be subjected to rigorous testing and limited movement.
In order for any of this will happen, players have to ratify the return-to-play plan and CBA extension through a vote once everything is completed. Teams would also have to get through training camps in their own markets safely before traveling to hub cities. There is also language in the NHL’s return-to-play agreements that would allow players to opt-out of this summer’s restart, as others have done in other sports.