The NHL is examining its list of potential hub cities, and there is a growing buzz that Pittsburgh could be one of the two NHL hub cities. When the NHL announced the agreement and plans for the 24-team NHL Return to Play Plan, the league also named 10 potential hub cities. Only three potential NHL hub cities were Eastern Conference cities, Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Toronto.
The league could choose two Western Conference cities, but that seems to be a last resort.
The Canadian government order, which mandates a two-week quarantine for arriving athletes, burdens Toronto. After his national address in May to announce the details of the NHL-NHLPA agreement on the 24-team NHL Return to Play Plan, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said unless the Canadian government is willing to relax the restrictions, the NHL could not employ a Canadian city as a hub.
“…If we conduct training camp and go to a Canadian city, but have to quarantine for an additional 14 days, that isn’t going to work,” Bettman said.
On Wednesday, multiple Canadian reports indicated the Calgary Flames were investigating holding their training camp in the United States to circumvent the quarantine for returning players.
On Wednesday night, sources with knowledge of the ongoing situation told Pittsburgh Hockey Now there was a buzz about Pittsburgh with PPG Paints Arena as an NHL hub city.
According to one source, several key factors could tilt the scales towards Pittsburgh. The area has multiple facilities (UPMC Lemieux Complex, PPG Paints Arena, and numerous smaller rinks in the area), the smaller market size, and a newer arena. The league also likes Pittsburgh’s proximity to the Canadian border.
However, other sources differed, which indicates an unfolding and still fluid situation. Another Penguins team source said he felt the NHL leaned towards Columbus.
A prominent league source did little to settle the tie. The League source called the decision between Columbus and Pittsburgh a close call, “It’s 50-50,” the source said.
COVID-19 infection rate is also a factor in the NHL hub city selection process. Allegheny County has reported just over 2,000 cases, which is a comparatively low number. Pennsylvania has over 75,000 cases.
The county reported seven new cases on Wednesday. It’s up to you if that is a good number or bad news.
Updated figures from Franklin County, OH show over 7,000 cases but only 38,000 COVID-19 cases in Ohio.
Experts agree it is still too soon to know if mass social demonstrations will contribute to a spike in cases, or if that spike will be deadly. Last Thursday, the head of UPMC Emergency Medicine, Dr. Donald Yealy, reported that new cases seem to be less severe.
“The virus may be changing. Some patterns suggest the potency is diminished,” Yealy said.
That is good news for any city.
The NHL has intentionally not set a timeline for selecting a hub city. The league wants to allow all factors and details to emerge to make the best decision but only make it once. The process of moving a hub city would be difficult and expensive. Hotel rooms for hundreds of players and team personnel would be canceled in one city and re-booked in another.
In the Western Conference, it appears Vegas is the clear and leading front runner to be the hub. Colorado Hockey Now’s Adrian Dater reported he continues to hear only Vegas. Read Adrian’s report here.
There was enough excitement in parts of the Pittsburgh organization for our source to reach out. PHN will be following the story.