Whether it happens, who knows. Whether it should happen is debatable. What it will look like, that remains to be seen, but what we do know is that if hockey happens there is a strong possibility it could be in Toronto.
TSN’s Frank Seravalli was looking at what some of the options could be for the NHL’s suggest four city approach where each division would play their games in one city. Seemingly Edmonton seems to be a front runner for the Pacific, but with Glendale also being considered. Winnipeg, Dallas, and Minneapolis have been suggest for the Central, and Pittsburgh and Raleigh for the Metro division. That just leaves the Atlantic, a division hope to a number of cities that have struggled to contain COVID-19.
The NHL’s suggested criteria for consideration is as follows:
– “The location could be anywhere besides a [COVID-19] hot spot.”
– “We need a lot of ice. There does need to be practice facilities.”
– “We need four NHL-calibre locker rooms. Because if you’re going to play three games in one day, you’ve got to be moving things around, and you’ve got to make sure that we’re taking the proper sanitizing procedures.”
For the Atlantic, there is no doubt that Toronto fits the bill of having the NHL calibre facilities and plenty of ice. The challenge may be the COVID hotspot aspect, but compared to Boston, Montreal, Detroit, Buffalo Florida, and Tampa, Toronto probably has a flatter curve. The other option is Ottawa, who might be better off from a COVID control aspect, but would struggle with the other criteria. This is especially true if the league would like to house players in hotels close to the arena and not just set up a tent town in the Ottawa suburbs.
TSN’s justification for Toronto being considered was as follows:
Toronto’s case: Scotiabank Arena’s proximity to a number of rinks and arenas, walking distance to hotels, as well as experience hosting NHL tentpole events, makes Toronto a top candidate. The 2016 World Cup of Hockey proved the arena could house eight teams and their equipment under one roof. During that tournament, Coca-Cola Coliseum – home of the AHL’s Marlies – was used as a practice facility. The Maple Leafs are the only NHL team that has a four-sheet practice hub, the Ford Performance Centre in suburban Etobicoke. Additionally, the old Maple Leaf Gardens – now named Mattamy Athletic Centre – is located downtown. The NHL also has bodies on the ground with one of its league offices connected to Scotiabank Arena, plus it could provide the easiest logistics for the league’s Canadian national broadcast partner. Given all of the ice and infrastructure, Toronto could feasibly host all 16 teams for a Stanley Cup playoff. But for one of the NHL’s most densely populated cities, it might all come down to medical data and risk factors presented.
The idea of a playoff game being played in what was Maple Leafs Gardens would be something special, although I’d have to assume the when we’re talking playoffs most of the activity will shift to the Scotiabank Arena. Hell just give me a Leafs game at the fake Gardens just once and this entire experiment was worth it.
While there are concerns about number of COVID cases in Toronto, the numbers show that for a city of its size Toronto has contained COVID well and could see them as a front runner for hosting.
I also wonder with it being summer hockey how much consideration will be given to climates that can probably commit to better ice conditions. Major arenas in other markets wouldn’t be much of an issue, but cities like Toronto, Edmonton, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Winnipeg, etc. would have more reliable practice and secondary facilities for use.
In reality, it doesn’t really matter where the games end up being played because no one is going to be allowed in, and measures will need to be taken to keep the public away. Whether it’s Toronto or Thunder Bay you are just as likely to see a Leafs game in person this summer.
What does seem to be true is that the NHL is pushing to make this happen, but the logistics seem to be ridiculous.