There’s still so much uncertainty and more questions than answers, but the NHL is trying to pick host cities for a resumption to the NHL season.
Sports leagues around the world are working vigorously to try to bring their respective sports back, and the NHL is in a tricky situation trying to restart their 2019-20 season that was paused over two months ago.
The NHL had less than 200 regular season games left to be played when play was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams were either gearing up for the playoffs, or already thinking about the offseason.
One city that should make sense as a centralized location that checks all of the boxes is Nashville, which is the home of the Nashville Predators. A report from the Tennessean says that Nashville is interested.
Nashville wants to host
As many already know, the host city shouldn’t have any impact on “home-ice advantage” as it pertains to the teams playing against each other in competitive action. No fans are presumably going to be allowed at these games, and everyone involved will be staying in hotels near the arena.
Per a report from the Tennessean, Nashville wants to be a host city for the NHL once play is hopefully resumed later this summer. It would put Bridgestone Arena on the big stage yet again, only this time with no fans in the seats.
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However, this will be a high pressure challenge to take on for whichever cities host these games.
Safety and health of everyone involved obviously has to be paramount, and the facilities have to be top-notch to handle the complexity of this.
Bridgestone Arena has always been a great host site to handle multiple teams and media personnel.
Hotel space is a top factor in picking these sites, along with locker room availability and ample testing.
Furthermore, Bettman has said that each site could host around 12 teams, or more, to possibly knock out several games in one day.
A complex and difficult plan
The NHL has to be very particular and prudent when picking these hub cities. It does seem like the NHL and Bettman are letting the medical experts lead first based on some of his comments regarding the plan to restart the season:
"“So a lot of our planning and a lot of the issues we’re confronting ultimately are going to be resolved for us by other people, whether it’s physicians or whether it’s governmental leaders, and that’s why we have to be doing a lot of contingency planning so we can react to whatever they’re telling is us appropriate and permissible.”"
There’s still so much unknown in all of this, but it appears that the NHL is doing their due diligence just in case the door swings open to complete the 2019-20 season in a safe manner that doesn’t disrupt the integrity of the game.
When it comes to Nashville, this city makes a lot of sense for the NHL. Plenty of hotel space right next to Bridgestone Arena, one of the better facilities in the league and geographically it’s generally a centralized location.
There shouldn’t be any cries about the Predators having an unfair advantage by playing in their home city considering there will be no fans in attendance and players will not be traveling to their personal homes while play is being conducted.
The Predators narrowly snagged a wildcard spot just before the season pause in mid-March. They got a two-game sweep over the Dallas Stars and then beat the Montreal Canadiens. They were playing some of their best hockey of the season, with 13 regular season games remaining.
It will be an even and neutral playing field for every team involved, or at least that’s the hope.
The NHL wants to be ready to hit the ground running and have a concrete plan in place when and if the opportunity presents itself to play these games.
Selecting a draft date
The next order of league business that needs to get figured out is the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. The NFL already showed us that this can be done successfully, but and the NHL was hopefully taking notes.
What makes picking the draft date complicated is if the draft is already conducted, it will make the remaining regular season games for some teams even more pointless because no draft position will be at stake.
Other cities that might be top candidates are Las Vegas and Columbus, per Chris Johnston’s comments on Sportsnet radio.
It will definitely be interesting to see what the NHL decides to do on how many cities are selected, how the playoff format is laid out and if the regular season gets played out. So much unknown remains, and that’s just fine as long as safety and health is coming first.