Picture this, Mayor Goodman gets her wish to open casinos prematurely but only certain groups of people are allowed in. A block of rooms would be booked, and only the high-limit tables would be open. Call it a soft opening. Those guests, or tenants, would be NHL players.
TSN’s Frank Seravalli proposed four NHL cities that are well suited to host postseason series. Dallas, Edmonton, Pittsburgh and Toronto were the locations suggested. His criteria were logical and based on areas that would be safe and accessible.
The plan could include regular-season play, a traditional 16-team playoff, or even an “expanded” playoff.
Teams might be grouped by division, but not necessarily, Bettman said. Sources indicated that the NHL could have teams playing at sites outside of their usual geographic area, such as two groups of eight teams at two sites in the West – circumstances that would be dictated by which localities have eased restrictions.
“We’re just constantly trying to figure out what our alternatives will be,” Bettman said.
Bettman’s stated requirements for host sites are:
– “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.”
Sources indicate the league is keeping a running list of up to 10 NHL cities that could suitably host in the event of a centralized restart.- Frank Seravalli, TSN
At first glance Las Vegas seems to be a perfect location to host multiple series. Thanks to the shutdown and social-distancing, Southern Nevada is not a hot spot for Covid-19, which is cardinal rule #1 for Commissioner Bettman. T-Mobile Arena has many rooms that can convert into NHL-Caliber lockerrooms. Army, Cornell, Providence, and Ohio State all fit comfortably during the Fortress Invitational even with an NHL game taking place on the same day.
But, there’s one massive reason why Las Vegas can’t be one of the initial four hosts when if the league does indeed use this plan. That reason is a shortage of ice.
The city of Las Vegas currently only has three sheets of ice that meet NHL standards; one at T-Mobile and two at City National Arena. A year from now there will be two more at Lifeguard Arena in Henderson, then in a few years another one at the AHL rink in Henderson, but as for now, you can’t reasonably make NHL teams vying for a playoff spot practice at the Ice Center or Sobe Arena. Not to mention, with everyone housed on the Strip, transporting players and equipment for SEVEN teams back and forth the 17 miles to Summerlin, only to be crammed into City National Arena simply isn’t logical.
Las Vegas is just not suitable for eight teams. So scrap that idea.
The league indicated there are as many as ten locations that could become host cities. Is it possible the league would choose Golden Knights territory for the second round of sites (likely to be the NHL’s version of the Final Four).
If everything continues trending in the right direction, the infection rate would allow the league to feel comfortable playing two series in Southern Nevada. If the central issue was limited ice for eight teams, then the three quality sheets at T-Mobile Arena and City National Arena would be plenty for four teams.
With a lot of timing options, we have a great deal of flexibility… We’re not going to rush anything, we’re not going to do anything that’s crazy. We’re going to do something under the circumstances at the time that is sensible.-Gary Bettman
No matter how the league plans to finish the season, centralized locations will probably be the plan. If the league wanted to keep the entire postseason in four cities then Las Vegas would probably be out. However, if they’re willing to add a fifth city for the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final, Nevada would have to be at the top of the list as an option.
Safety, lodging, practice facilities, and overall accessibility are enough reasons to consider Las Vegas for the Western Conference’s second round and beyond. It makes sense logistically for the NHL and it could be a good thing for the city.
Just don’t tell the Mayor, she’ll invite the entire league and raise the table limits.