Canada

Toronto, Edmonton on verge of being named NHL hub cities pending CBA agreement, source says

Get ready for an all-Canadian party when the NHL resumes its season with a 24-team playoff.

According to an industry source, both Toronto and Edmonton have been all-but-approved as the two hub cities to host the teams for the NHL’s return from the COVID-19 pause.

“Nothing’s official yet,” the source said, on the condition of anonymity.

Both the league and its players’ union talked into the early hours of Canada Day to iron out return-to-play details, COVID-19 protocols and other issues, that if agreed upon, would result in an extension to the current collective bargaining agreement.

It appears the CBA extension is the final hurdle to a package that will see hockey not only return to a pair of Canadian hosts, but forge a labour peace that could also include NHL players returning to the next two Olympics (2022 and 2026, pending talks with the IOC).

Both sides returned to talks on Canada Day, with hopes that a full agreement on all issues will be ready for a vote by the NHLPA membership — as soon as Thursday or Friday.

Nothing has been officially announced, and talks continued Wednesday regarding COVID-19 protocols and CBA details.

Toronto has been mentioned widely as an all-but-a-sure bet as one of the NHL’s two hub cities. If it’s approved, the city would need to get ready for 12 teams — and upwards of 600 players and team staff — descending on the Scotiabank Arena for games.

It’s possible the Ricoh Coliseum could also host games, while practices could be held at the Ford Performance Centre.

Toronto would also need to establish a quarantine zone for all personnel, as well as testing protocols and other safety precautions. Fans will not be admitted into the games, which are expected to begin in early August, after a three-week training camp.

That camp — which represents Phase 3 of the NHL’s four-phase return to hockey — is scheduled to open July 10.

It’s possible an agreement would not be ratified until early next week, but the clock is ticking on a July 10 startup.

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Hotels have not been announced, but it’s expected that most, if not all, of the teams, would be isolated into one or two hotels.

The Leafs use the Ford Performance Centre, which could host 3-4 team practices at a time, and stagger practices daily in order to keep all the teams at one site.

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