When it comes to breaking NHL news Bob McKenzie is king, we are all competing for 2nd. Whenever I get a text from a buddy, is (insert NHL news here) true? I always respond: “What did the Bobfather tweet?”
As first reported by the Bobfather, the NHL is set to announce Edmonton and Toronto as their two Hub Cities.
To quote a Maritime lyrical legend, Classified: “O Canada. O-O-O Canada!”
A day typically reserved for the start of Free Agency in a normal NHL calendar, the league gave Canada the best possible gift on it’s birthday; hockey. I am of the belief that releasing this information was intentional and someone in the Marketing department deserves a raise (I see you S.T).
To quickly recap how we got here, when the NHL initially started their Return To Play program, 10 NHL cities were in contention to be Hub Cities. For a while Vegas was the presumed favourite, they have all the infrastructure you could possibly ask for AND they said no to the NBA. That’s a lot of money to say no to without some sort of assurance from the NHL.
As teams started to drop out, Vegas remained the lead horse with Vancouver emerging as the 2nd Hub City. The Van City hype was short-lived as the Health Ministry in BC quickly put an end to this when they rejected the NHL’s plan for dealing with the disease (no Roxy this time boys). Then the NHL hit a wall, that in all honesty, they should’ve seen coming; Vegas got hit with a spike in cases. This was probably a blessing in disguise because if the NHL honestly prioritized player safety, Edmonton was the logical destination from the start.
I have loudly been preaching to my friends that Edmonton is without a doubt the safest option of the Hub Cities. Basically any combination of the 3 Canadian cities would have been the best situation. Canada is far from perfect, but their approach to the disease has proved to be more effective as some US states are still seeing surges in new cases. Part of this can be attributed to the country’s very low population density and of the Hub Cities in contention Edmonton has the lowest by a mile. I have no idea how no one is talking about this.
The NHL has to plan for the worst case scenario, not only within their bubble but the world around them as well. If a major surge (I refuse to use the term 2nd wave until the 1st is over) occurs in North America, you need to have as few people around you as possible to minimize the potential spread of the disease. To add to this, Canada has strong testing procedures and measures in place, so there is a bit of comfort in knowing that the general public around the bubble can be tested quickly (relatively speaking of course).
The Oilers also low key have an incredible set up with their new arena. Modern day sport venues are rarely a stand alone building anymore, they are small community developments. Just look at Jerry World, it is essentially an amusement park with a football stadium in the middle. I am not saying Rogers Place is the Canadian Jerry World, but it does have some very important facilities like hotels, restaurants, storefronts, etc. This is crucial so that the league can create a sort of Athlete’s village to quite literally create a bubble to protect the players and staff. Being a major city, Toronto obviously has enough of these sorts of facilities in the surrounding area, so it will be more a question of how big of an area needs to block off to be able to build a proper ‘Athlete’s Village’.
Before we start celebrating too soon, there are still some hurdles to overcome, no official statement has been made by the NHL. The reason being this could literally change in a moment’s notice if cases spike; there will always be this caveat until the playoffs are over. More immediately, the proposed Hub Cities, along with the CBA changes, still need the approval of the NHL Board of Directors and the players. Before anything is finalized by the league, the PA will hold a vote and would need a majority for this to pass.
According to the Bobfather, the PA could vote on this as early as this weekend, and while this is all exciting, we need to temper expectations. It will be interesting to see how the player’s vote on this, given that playing in Canada raises some money vs safety issues in my opinion. When you consider the Income Taxes and the inevitable 20%+ escrow the players will have to pay is it worth their health? Yes, they are still set to make a lot of money but would you show up to work right now for potentially as low as 30% of your pay just to entertain others? It’s a valid question they all have the right to ask themselves before leaving their families.
At the end of the day, they are all athletes and that competitive drive in all of them will get the majority needed to have a playoff (caveat included). As a Canadian I am happy to see Edmonton get the nod because the province of Alberta could really use a jolt of international money being pumped into their economy. I will wait until I see that first skate on the ice before celebrating, but this is a very exciting first step!
Happy Birthday Canada!