As the NHL continues conjuring up various scenarios for a possible resumption of the 2019-20 season, the idea of hosting games in multiple “hub cities” has been discussed.
NHL senior executive vice president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell addressed what goes into a decision like that on Friday during an appearance on Hockey Central.
“There’s a number of criteria,” Campbell said. “Is it a friendly hub? What state is friendly? What province is friendly? What are they dealing with (in terms of COVID-19 cases)? Obviously, you look at the New York area, it’s not very friendly and you look at Alberta, that seems fairly friendly.”
Rather than playing games in neutral sites like North Dakota or New Hampshire, league executives are insistent games take place in NHL arenas.
“We need to have an NHL arena,” Campbell said. “There was some talk about North Dakota and other sites. We need an NHL arena that’s game-ready that’s all set up and ready to go for broadcasting, for NHL games. They need four dressing rooms inside those arenas to play the number of games they need to play each day. The hotels need to be adequate and what our players need.”
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Ron MacLean on In Conversation earlier this week that smaller arenas in non-NHL cities wouldn’t suffice.
“We can’t play in a small college rink in the middle of a smaller community because if we’re going to be centralized, we need the back of the house that NHL arenas provide,” Bettman explained. “Whether its multiple locker rooms, whether it’s the technology, the procedures, the boards and glass, the video replay, the broadcasting facilities. Those are the things that are in place in NHL arenas and that’s what we’re going to ultimately need if we’re going to come back in a centralized basis and play multiple games a day.”
Campbell said “a lot of teams have stepped up” offering their services and he asked several managers around the league why they’d want their team to be a host city. A common response was that it would be a positive thing for the city, the arenas, employees and that getting back to work would boost overall morale.
“Obviously, to have it in Canada you’re dealing with the 70-cent dollar now, which would be, in these tough economic times everyone’s dealing with, it would be an extra perk,” Campbell added.
Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan told Tim and Sid on Thursday he believes hosting games at hub cities is a workable scenario.
“I do like the idea of four hub cities, the idea of bringing each division to that hub city,” Shanahan said. “We’re not talking about doing it right now or anywhere right around the corner but when the time is safe and the proper authorities give the clearance to do so, under the right precautions, I think that it is a very workable scenario.”
Toronto hosted the World Cup of Hockey in 2016 and Campbell referenced that tournament when asked if Canada’s most populated city could be a potential hub destination.
“We dealt with various practice rinks, dealt with various hotels, dealt with (Scotiabank Arena), dealt with various dressing rooms, dealt with all the issues that we’re going to have to deal with, so that’s a step up that Toronto has,” Campbell said. “Plus it’s a 70-cent dollar, there are a number of restaurants in that square there, a number of five-star hotels within shouting distance, so Toronto has a number of excellent pluses on their side to be one of the hub centres.”