The NHL has shifted its focus to selecting two Canadian hub cities, sources confirmed to ESPN.
That would have the NHL resuming its season in Toronto and Edmonton later this summer. Nothing is final until players vote on the return-to-play proposal, which is not expected to happen until later this week.
The NHL and NHLPA are also in discussions on an extension to the collective bargaining agreement, which has delayed any announcements.
Las Vegas had long been the presumed favorite as a hub city for the NHL’s return. In recent days, however, the league and its players became spooked by a spike of positive cases in Nevada as well as several other U.S. states. As of June 30, there have been 18,456 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nevada with 507 deaths, with the state reporting its five highest days for coronavirus cases in the past week.
The NHL initially hoped to pick one Canadian city and one American city for its hubs. But it is cheaper to stage games in Canada — a minor victory for the league, which is projected to lose more than $1 billion if it cannot return to play at all in 2020.
The league favored Las Vegas for a hub because it has a longstanding relationship with the city and there are plenty of luxury hotel options close to T-Mobile Arena, where the NHL felt comfortable it could create a strong bubble environment. The NHL has already committed to testing all players and staffers daily for the coronavirus when games resume.
NHL players are allowed to participate in voluntary, small-group sessions at team facilities. Mandatory training camps are scheduled to begin July 10, although sources told ESPN that could be delayed until July 13. The NHL will then resume with a 24-team tournament to award a Stanley Cup winner in 2020.
TSN first reported on the NHL’s plan to focus on Canadian cities.