NHL expected to announce Toronto, Edmonton as hub cities: reports
League aiming to restart with 24-team playoff format
The NHL has seemingly decided on its hub cities for when the league returns to play, according to multiple reports on Wednesday: Toronto would host the Eastern Conference teams while Edmonton would serve as the host city for the West.
A formal announcement has not been made, but the reports follow weeks of speculation about which cities the league would resume play in after games were halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The CBC has not independently confirmed the reports.
"As of July 1, 2020, Toronto Public Health has not been notified that Toronto has been designated as a hub city for the NHL," Toronto's associate medical officer of health, Dr. Vinita Dubey, said in a statement released Wednesday.
WATCH | Devin Heroux on the risks involved with Edmonton, Toronto as hub cities:
Toronto Mayor John Tory was also not able to provide confirmation, but said during an unrelated news conference Wednesday that he's got his "fingers crossed" for the prospect of hosting.
CBC News has learned that Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, has expressed support for the selection of Toronto as a hub city, provided the proper public health procedures and protocols are in place.
The Ontario Ministry of Health has been working alongside Toronto Public Health to facilitate a safe return for the NHL, but the ministry says it has not been notified whether Toronto has been chosen as a hub city.
Later Wednesday, Tom McMillan, the assistant director of communications for Alberta Health, indicated that it "is not in a position to comment on if the bid has been successful or not."
But McMillan did point to an announcement in May by Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw regarding the development of a plan that would allow Edmonton to be considered.
"These guidelines were developed to support players, NHL staff, media personnel and Albertans to stay healthy and safe during such an event," McMillan said in an email to CBC.
"If Edmonton is chosen, health officials will work with all applicable partners to ensure the guidance is followed to the letter and to protect the public."
League plans to reopen training camps July 10
The hub city concept is the league's attempt to minimize COVID-risk by limiting travel for the 24 teams — 12 in each conference — that will resume play when the season picks back up this summer. Games will not be played in front of the usual on-site audiences, and only support staff will be allowed in the venues.
Vancouver had been regarded as the Canadian hub-city favourite before B.C. health officials reportedly expressed concern about the fallout of a positive coronavirus test.
Earlier in June, the Canadian federal government agreed to the NHL's cohort quarantine proposal, which allows incoming players to the country to bypass the mandatory 14-day isolation period.
The league plans to reopen training camps July 10 but has yet to release a schedule for the 24 teams still in the running for the Stanley Cup.
WATCH | Rob Pizzo of CBC Sports on expected hub city announcement:
Part of Toronto's bid is the number of rinks it has available for the league. Beyond Scotiabank Arena, home of the Maple Leafs, the AHL Marlies' Coca-Cola Coliseum could also be used, as well as the Leafs' practice facility that houses four sheets of ice.
Toronto has hosted multi-team hockey tournaments in the recent past, such as the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, and has the hotel infrastructure to handle 12 NHL teams.
WATCH | The challenges of choosing a hub city:
Edmonton would earn its bid after a hard push from the city, which included Mayor Don Iveson tweeting out a promotional video.
While Ontario is still managing over 100 new cases of COVID-19 per day, Alberta hasn't reached that mark since May 2. The province is also a world leader in per-capita testing, and could keep players relatively isolated because the downtown home arena Rogers Place is linked by pedway to hotels and other amenities.