Canadian Government Clears Way for Hub City in NHL's Return

As the NHL continues to navigate its road to a return to play this season after being on pause since mid-March, the league has overcome several hurdles along the way. We’ve seen the willingness to expand to a 24-team playoff field over its usual 16 teams. The first round is a qualifying round that is a best of five series with the winners advancing to what would be a normal playoff field. In addition, the top four seeds in each conference, who avoid playing in the qualifying round, will play a round-robin mini-tournament to determine the seeding for the postseason.

After moving to Phase 2 of their return to play plan earlier this month and announcing that plan 3 is slated to get started on July 10, the league is working toward hammering out the hub cities that will host the postseason action the rest of the way. Reports in the last week or so have pointed toward Las Vegas being the hub city for the Eastern Conference, while the other hub city is more up in the air at this stage of things. The potential that a Canadian city could be in the mix got a major boost in the last couple of days thanks to an about face by the Canadian government.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated on Tuesday that the government is open to the NHL operating a hub city within its borders. He also stated that the league would have to make the decision along with input from the provincial and municipal governments in order to proceed. In his statement, Trudeau said: "We have indicated that we are comfortable with moving forward on an NHL hub in one of three Canadian cities that are asking for it. Obviously, the decision needs to be made by the NHL and the cities and the provinces in the jurisdiction. Canada is open to it as long as it is OK by the local health authorities."

The decision to keep the U.S./Canada border remains closed until July 21, which would seemingly impact the ability for the league to play in Canada. Training camps, also known as Phase 3 of the Return to Play initiative, is scheduled to begin on July 10. However, reports have said that the closing of the border to nonessential travel does not apply to NHL players. That seems to make sense as some of the players have already been traveling back toward their home cities. The Canadian government also stated that the 14-day quarantine period for individuals traveling to the country will be waived for members of the NHL.

Commissioner Gary Bettman seemed pleased that the Canadian government made the decision to potentially open up the borders as a hub city. He said in an interview with the Toronto Star: "The National Hockey League appreciates the significant effort that the government of Canada put into reviewing this matter and satisfying itself that the League's protocol and processes for Return to Play were thorough, well thought out and, most importantly, focused on the health and safety of all concerned. The League will continue to work with the respective provincial governments and health authorities in the coming days as we consider our hub cities decision."

The decision to open the borders to the league is a beneficial one for both sides should the NHL choose a Canadian city to be a hub. For the country, it’s an economic boost as having 12 teams and their support staff in a city will generate revenue that would otherwise have ended up in the coffers of a city in the United States. That’s something that can’t be overlooked. On the flip side of the equation, it’s a plus for the league if they can pull that off as the exchange rate works in their favor. Currently, one U.S. dollar is worth slightly more than $1.36 Canadian, which is a nice premium for the league, which is dealing with the lack of revenue from having fans in the seats.

Whether a Canadian city will end up as a hub or not will be determined in the next week to 10 days more than likely. We’ll have to wait and see but it is a sound move for both sides to make that decision.

Author Profile
Chris King

Chris King has been immersed in the world of professional and collegiate sports for more than three decades. Whether it's playing pickup games or being involved in organized sports to being a fan, he's checked all the boxes. From the NFL to arena football, the NHL to the KHL, the NBA to the WNBA to college hoops, and even MLB to the KBO. If it's out there, he's covered it and bet on it as well, as Chris has been an expert bettor in his career. Before joining Winners and Whiners back in 2015, his work appeared around the internet and in print. He's written books for Ruckus Books about college basketball, the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, golf, and the World Cup. If you're looking for the inside track on hitting a winner, do yourself a favor and read what Chris has to say.