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Photo Credit: NHL.com

NHL releases further hub city details

Last night, the NHL released a video featuring an in-depth look at Phase 4 of its return to play plan, and I figured that we should walk through some of the details together.

Last night, the NHL released further details as to what a return to hockey will be like in both Edmonton and Toronto as the league gets set to resume the 2019-20 season. As you can imagine, there are plenty of questions that needed to be answered in terms of safety and logistics at the hub city locations and the National Hockey League tried to shed some light on as many of them as possible with this 49-minute video. For the purposes of this article, though, I wanted to focus on a few, specific items.

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To start things off, NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, admitted how strange this is all going to be and how the league and players put in seemingly endless work to make this summer playoff happen:

“This is going to be an unusual, to say the least, endeavour. It will be challenging at times, but I assure you we, in conjunction with the [NHLPA], who we work with every step of the way, are trying to do everything possible to make this an experience that hopefully, you’ll never forget, but in a good way.”

1) Kicking things off, there will be six exhibition games played in each city from Tuesday-Thursday before the play-in rounds officially resume on August 1st. The qualifying round will consist of two round-robins — one for the top four teams in the Western and Eastern Conferences — to determine the seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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2) The first two rounds of the playoffs will take place in both Edmonton and Toronto, with the City of Champions hosting each conference final and the Stanley Cup Final. The league is hoping to have the Cup Finals starting on September 22nd and ending no later than October 4th.

3) The players and staff will undergo daily COVID-19 testing with results becoming available within 24 hours. In Edmonton, Ford Hall will have lanes set up with a 900-person capacity for testing. The NHL will be working with DynaLIFE in Edmonton and LifeLabs in Toronto to handle the testing.

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4) In Edmonton, three hotels (JW Marriott, Sutton Place Hotel, Delta Hotels) — all within walking distance of Rogers Place — will house the players, coaches, and staff throughout their stay in the city.

5) A fence has been set up around Rogers Place, the JW Merriott, Sutton Place, and Delta Hotels as a means of keeping the players separated from the public. In addition to the fencing system, there will also be 125 security guards and health officials available to help with security and information.

6) Obviously, there won’t be any fans allow at the games so the NHL will be using video, audio, and lighting to give viewers a completely different feel from game to game, with each looking different from the last. For the broadcasts, there will be 32 cameras set up for each game, which is way up from the usual 20 that are used under normal circumstances. These new cameras will provide different angles that we don’t normally see, while EA Sports will be providing supplemental crowd noise as a means of creating some atmosphere.

7) To make players feel more at home during play, the NHL has lined up goal songs, goal horns, in-arena music compilations, and pre-produced videos from each of the 24 participating teams, meaning that every game will have a different flavour than the last. The NHL has also allowed clubs to produce content featuring their fans as a means of replicating some of the chants that would normally happen in a team’s home arena.

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8) Rogers Place will have six locker rooms available for the teams to share, meaning that the Oilers won’t have exclusive use of their own dressing room. Practices will take place at Terwillegar Arena along with 15 other workout facilities that will be located in and around the bubble.

9) To keep themselves fed and entertained, players will have access to food from 14 local restaurants (including pop-ups and food trucks) as well as access to eight movie theatres. Each team will also have a suite and a player’s lounge set up for their exclusive use. Also, players may choose to attend games that they’re not playing in if they want to keep an eye on the competition.

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10) Speaking of games, all broadcasts will happen with a five-second delay to prevent any of the horrible things players say to each other on the ice from coming out on TV. No one needs little Timmy to hear Zack Kassian call Patrick Kane a crumb bum, or whatever it is that they say out there.

At just under an hour, there were plenty of details in the video that I wasn’t able to get into this article but it was certainly an interesting look at how this summer tournament is going to play out. If you have the time and want to check out the whole thing, the entire video is here.