If the National Hockey League manages to pull off its grand, 24-team return to play plan this summer it will all unfold in the Great White North.
As negotiations intensified Wednesday between the NHL and the Players’ Association on a framework for how the COVID-19-pandemic-delayed season will resume, we learned that Toronto and Edmonton had risen to the top of the league’s list in the race to be the two hub cities.
Up to 50 players, coaches and support staff for each team will be put in tightly controlled “bubbles” in a 40-acre campus-like village at the CNE Grounds in Toronto and ICE District in Edmonton.
Vancouver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Minneapolis-St. Paul were also on the NHL’s shortlist to host games.
It means if everything goes according to plan that Scotiabank Arena will host the 12 Eastern Conference teams and Rogers Place will host the 12 Western Conference clubs who will complete in the eight play-in series and the 16-team Stanley Cup playoff tournament.
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The plan still needs approval from the league’s Board of Governors, the Players’ Association, as well as the provincial governments in Ontario and Alberta, as well as the federal government.
Other interesting nuggets of information have also emerged from the negotiations, including a flat salary cap of $81.5 million over the next two seasons and a return to the Olympics in 2022 in Beijing, China and in 2026 in Milan, Italy.
The decision to play out the rest of the 2020 season in Toronto and Edmonton is based on two factors: the number of nearby hotel rooms and practice rinks — and, most importantly, the dwindling number of new novel coronavirus cases in each city.
Barring any last-minute changes, the NHL’s return to play framework could be the best Canada Day gift hockey fans could have ever imagined.
Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.
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