For months, since the idea of hub cities was brought to the forefront, Vegas was widely considered the best option for the league. Every major reporter, be it national or local, declared Las Vegas to be the city with the best accommodations to deliver on the utopian bubble-world the NHL was seeking.
The problem is, the NHL doesn’t actually believe in their own irrational idea and the image of Las Vegas is getting unnecessarily slammed worldwide because of it.
The plan the NHL has laid out is to bring 12 teams from each conference to one central location in order to play out the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and crown a team a champion. (Really, they just want the money that goes along with the event, but we’ll let that go for now.) Each “hub city” will house all 12 teams through the first two playoff rounds and then presumably the winners from one site will travel to the other to wrap up the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final.
The idea sounds amazing. Lock everyone in a specific area, test them all at the beginning to ensure everyone is healthy and COVID-19 free, and then have them all live there so no one is at risk of contracting the virus. Since there were to be no fans in the arenas anyway, playing every game at a neutral site is also a great way to limit travel, testing, and staff to tend to the games.
Here’s the issue and why it’s unnecessarily dragged Vegas through the mud. If the concept of the bubble actually worked, the surrounding areas wouldn’t make any difference. Once the bubble is “sealed” even if every person in the city in which its located gets infected, everyone inside the bubble is safe. Literally, the reason the term “bubble” is used.
But, if it is indeed true that Las Vegas is no longer being considered due to a spike in cases in the city, which has been written or said by pretty much everyone despite no official word on of it, then the league has proven they do not believe in their own concept. Instead, what they believe is that people will slip out of the bubble, others will slip in, and when it happens they want to limit the possibility of a bubble defector or bubble invaders contracting the virus. (Actually, they want to create the perception that they did everything in their power to avoid the inevitable from happening so they aren’t liable when it does, but we’ll let that go for now.)
So, in their fear of defectors and intruders, they’ve gone above and beyond to weed out cities that appear to have higher numbers of positive tests. Somehow, Vegas became one of those cities on the outs, despite being the only city on the NHL’s list to have actually held sporting events since the shutdown. The UFC has been holding events in Las Vegas since late May and has hosted 110 fighters over five different fight cards without a single case of Coronavirus to an athlete. The NHL though, believes there are too many cases and are instead creating both bubbles in Canada.
This unequivocally proves that the concept of the bubble is viewed as untrustworthy by the league. In a utopian world, there would be no defectors nor intruders and a negative test at the beginning would carry through the entirety of the playoffs as everyone is locked safely and soundly inside the bubble.
But utopia doesn’t exist and unfortunately, Las Vegas is paying for the half-baked idea that was concocted in the name of safety in the first place. (Actually, the hub city idea was likely pitched and ultimately accepted because it is financially much more viable than traveling and testing in buildings that won’t be making money off gate revenue, but we’ll let that go for now.)
Vegas, as the supposed front-runner solely because it does indeed boast the best hospitality industry on the globe, had everything to lose, and it appears the city has lost it. The national storyline is that the spread of the virus makes it too dangerous to go to Vegas. Even though, the real storyline is that the NHL doesn’t trust their own system and thus have to locate their ridiculous unrealistic non-utopia world to a
cheaper different city.
Las Vegas looks terrible in the eyes of the entire sports world. Those paying attention might understand that there’s a lot more to the decision than a simple increase in positive cases (at least there better be), but to most, it just looks like Vegas lost control. This city, more than any other in the entire world, thrives on its image. People must believe that Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world; the best place to spend those hard-earned vacation hours and bonuses. If Vegas isn’t viewed as safe, it will never rebound from the economic collapse that was instituted to stop the virus in the first place.
Every headline, every story, every tweet, will point to a rise in cases which comes with the horrible subplot of “Vegas is not safe.” Maybe Vegas isn’t safe, but that’s a much different issue than “can it host the NHL’s bubble.” (Actually, it might not be safe as we’re still seeming to have a hard time getting everyone to follow the rules despite the Governor screaming at us at his press conferences, but we’ll let that go for now.)
All that should matter is whether or not the city can create a sealed bubble, something no city can reasonably do because it’s physically impossible. And because of their lack of belief in a ridiculous concept, the NHL not choosing Vegas now comes with a PR nightmare that no other city is experiencing despite similar issues in numbers of positive tests.
Anger towards the city and state’s response to controlling the virus is perfectly fair and probably warranted, but the city experiencing a barrage of negative publicity because of an ill-conceived idea from the NHL is complete, pardon my French, bullshit.
If Vegas never submitted a bid, this wouldn’t be an international story. If Vegas wasn’t such an incredible place with unbelievable accommodations for visitors, this wouldn’t be an international story. And if the NHL actually believed in the idea of a bubble city, this wouldn’t be an international story.
The story isn’t how Las Vegas is a COVID-ridden hotbed spiraling out of control, the story is the NHL used Las Vegas to create the perception of safety around an idea they know doesn’t make practical sense in a pair of other cities that are undoubtedly cheaper.
And along the way, whether intentional or not, they launched a Las Vegas smear campaign. A smear campaign that needs to stop or at least be redirected to the real issue at hand.