While the National Hockey League is urgently looking to get things in place for a 56-game schedule to kick off on January 13th, some details appears to be more difficult to ironed out than others. And one issue is affecting five teams across the league.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions in California and Manitoba, it’s possible the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and Winnipeg Jets won’t be able to play in their home buildings to start the season. While it remains possible that those restrictions are lifted before the season starts, a plan has to get set in motion to temporarily relocate the teams in question to other NHL arenas to start the campaign. Here is how senior hockey writer Frank Seravelli explained it on last night’s Insider Trading on TSN.
“That’s one of the chief concerns that they may be more than 4 to 5 teams that are in question as whether they can even host games at this point. So Plan B remains the idea of hybrid bubbles or hub cities to potentially start one in each of the four divisions that would host the teams in a two-week in one-week out sort of time frame. The idea would be to start the season with perhaps 10 or 20 games in that format before then hopefully rolling out to each of the 31 buildings.
But the preference remains to start in all 31 arenas, we will see if they can get there.”
The idea of hybrid bubbles or hubs has been floating around for a while now. If a hub city is used, teams would travel to a location for two weeks to play around 10 games. Clubs would then return home for a week before going back to the hub. A hybrid bubble would be similar to the playoff bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton, but not nearly as strict. Toronto and Edmonton would remain the top options for the Canadian division. New Jersey, Columbus, and Las Vegas are reportedly three U.S. cities receiving the most attention to become potential hubs south of the border. Arenas in all three areas are home to only one primary tenant, with two sheets of ice on-site or nearby and enough hotel accommodations.
The Ducks and Kings are reportedly among the seven clubs that looked into playing home games outdoors. Anschutz Entertainment Group owns the Kings, Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy, and Dignity Health Sports Park - a 27,000-seat outdoor stadium in Carson, California. Los Angeles and Anaheim have reportedly discussed sharing the facility. That option appears to have been ruled out by the NHL who is focus on potentially kicking off the season in short-term hubs before returning teams to their respective arenas.