While it was originally believed the NHL would only be selecting one Canadian city for its return-to-play plan, it now appears that both hub cities will be in Canada.
According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, the two NHL hub cities will be Edmonton and Toronto. This, of course, means that Western Conference teams will play in Edmonton and Eastern Conference teams will be competing in Toronto.
Barring any last-minute complications, and we have seen some of those (Vancouver and Las Vegas), the two NHL Hub cities will be Edmonton and Toronto.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) July 1, 2020
This news comes after Las Vegas, home of the Golden Knights, was rumored to be a front-runner in the race to host teams returning to action. With the recent spike in coronavirus cases in Nevada, it's no surprise the league has pivoted to both cities being located north of the American border.
The NHL playing all games in Canada seems like a no-brainer for the league. According to quanthockey.com, 445 players or 45.2% are Canadian -- most by nationality in the league -- while just 270 players or 27.4% are American.
Many of the league's top stars also are natives of Canada including Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Patrice Bergeron, Nathan MacKinnon, Taylor Hall and so many others -- the list is lengthy. Many of them reside in Canada during the offseason, so playing in their home country would be rather special.
Edmonton has made a strong push to be the Canadian host and has even proposed an Olympic village-style setup for teams. Oilers Entertainment Group provided details last week about its proposal, including safety protocols and leisure activities for players, according to TSN's Ryan Rishaug.
OEG making a big push on the safety, and player experience elements in bid to be Hub city. Details below on what they have put in front of the league and the players. (My reporting in point form.) pic.twitter.com/HzDmp4p7ZH— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) June 22, 2020
Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment also have proposed a campus-like "bubble" similar to Edmonton's.
Players would have access to many facilities including BMO Field, Coca-Cola Coliseum (home of the AHL's Toronto Marlies), the Toronto Raptors' practice facility and Hotel X, which has 400 rooms, according to LeBrun. MLSE would be willing to add other features such as food trucks and an outdoor movie theater.
With players currently skating in small groups ahead of the season restart, they could report for the season at their scheduled hub cities as soon as next month, provided the league has decided to move forward with its plans.