The NHL is holding out hope to tab a Canadian city as a hub city for the NHL playoffs, at least as told to PHN by inside sources. While Pittsburgh waits in the wings to show off its civic pride and host 12 teams and national television networks, sources have told PHN the city has a 50/50 shot at becoming the second NHL hub city with games at PPG Paints Arena.
And those odds of becoming an NHL hub city may have increased on Tuesday.
The Canadian government reached an agreement with American authorities to extend border closures to non-essential personnel to July 21, even as both countries take steps to open their economies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike the U.S. government, Canada has not classified athletes as essential personnel. The U.S. government recently deemed sports necessary for American life and thusly granted professional sports leagues exemptions to enter the country.
“There are governmental issues. For example, currently, we don’t think we can do this in the Canadian markets because there is a 14-day quarantine,” Bettman said on May 26. “We are talking with the Canadian government about it.”
Multiple reports confirm the NHL and Bettman have lobbied the Canadian government to grant the same or similar exemptions to athletes in Canada.
However, the Justin Trudeau-led government has thus far resisted.
“(The border agreement) is an important decision that will keep people in both of our countries safe,” Trudeau said on Tuesday.
The NHL hopes to announce the official hub cities next week, in advance of the start of the NHL Phase 3 training camps on July 10. The NHL has also urged players to arrive in their hockey cities by June 21 to avoid delays to Phase 3 or the games as part of Phase 4.
Last month, the NHL and NHLPA agreed to a 24-team NHL return, which began with Phase 2, voluntary workouts last week. The NHL will move to Phase 3, which is a short training camp on July 10. The Qualifying Round and round-robin tournament among the top-four seeds in each conference will begin a few weeks after Phase 3.
A source told PHN last week that Pittsburgh had a 50/50 shot at getting the games, though other sources indicated Toronto was the NHL’s first choice if the 14-day quarantine rules could be relaxed. The NHL has even offered a compromise, which would include the arena as part of an athlete’s quarantine. The compromise to the rule would permit an athlete to shuttle back and forth from housing to the arena, but not be allowed in public.