During this morning’s address, Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced that Canada would indeed be open to working with the NHL on coming up with a plan if the league does decide to have a hub in one of three cities for the 24-team playoff format that’s set to (hopefully) kick off later this summer.
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen varying reports circling on Twitter that the Canadian government would be open to working with the NHL on their return to play plan provided that any location selected was approved by local health authorities. Even yesterday, Zach Laing wrote about Edmonton still being in the running to host the NHL playoffs despite worries remaining over the two-week delay. This morning, the Prime Minister addressed some of those concerns in his daily address.
The full quote:
“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 has to be made by the NHL and the cities and provinces in the jurisdiction, but Canada is open to it as long as it is OK’d by the local health authorities.”
So what does this mean exactly? I’m not exactly sure yet, but it sounds encouraging. The Canada-US border has been closed to all non-essential travel since March 21st as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — now extended to July 21st — which raised questions about how NHLers could get back into the country as part of the league’s return to play plan. According to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, Vegas is reportedly set to be named as one of two hubs before the end of the month, and it will be interesting to see whether Edmonton would still be in the mix if another club within its division gets the call.
Last week, the NHL kicked off Phase 2 of its return to play protocol, meaning players are now able to participate in voluntary training sessions at team practice facilities with groups of six or less being permitted to work together until training camps resume. With the goal for training camps to open set for July 10th, the 24-teams that are hoping to finish off the 2019-20 season will need to know where they’ll be playing as soon as possible. As always, we wait.