Report: Toronto, Columbus among leading contenders as NHL host cities

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The NHL and NHLPA have intensified talks about a potential plan to resume the season, and Toronto and Columbus are the leading contenders to become two of the host cities, according to the New York Post's Larry Brooks.

Initial reports indicated that as many as 12 NHL cities were being vetted as possible destinations.

The latest proposal floating around this week discussed the idea of the NHL using up to four hub cities and bringing teams to station in each of them to play out the remainder of the games. The cities will need to have an existing NHL team, rather than using neutral sites that were talked about earlier.

Commissioner Gary Bettman told Sportsnet's Ron MacLean Wednesday that the cities they're looking into need to meet certain requirements in order to be considered. The city can't be a hotspot for COVID-19, arenas would need at least four NHL-caliber dressing rooms and practice facilities nearby that meet NHL standards, and there would need to be a suitable four- or five-star hotel nearby to house the players.

Within the framework of this idea, teams will hold training camps for up to three weeks at their assigned centralized locations before games begin.

The NHL will need to listen to local governing bodies when making decisions as well. After the league began exploring Edmonton and Calgary as potential destinations, Alberta's chief medical officer clarified that gatherings of more than 15 people will be prohibited until at least September, ultimately ruling out the two cities.

One of the glaring issues on the NHLPA's agenda for a return to play amid the pandemic is the concern for a number of players with pre-existing health issues. That includes players such as Max Domi, who has Type 1 diabetes, and Brian Boyle, who was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in 2017 but has been in remission since 2018.

There are also a number of questions that remain unanswered. A decision needs to be made regarding European players and whether they will be able to return, what the daily lives of players quarantined in hotels for weeks will be like, and how the league will handle the testing of its players and staff. Brooks added that these questions will all be a part of discussions in the coming days.

The NHL and NHLPA will continue to hold conference calls in the near future to determine if a return is a plausible scenario.

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Report: Toronto, Columbus among leading contenders as NHL host cities
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