The NHL is reportedly close to finalizing details that would see two Canadian cities, Edmonton and Toronto, host the resumption of the 2019-20 season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
TSN's Bob McKenzie reported the update and provided further information Wednesday:
The NHL was originally expected to announce the hub cities in late June, and Las Vegas was slated to emerge as one of the two selections, per Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.
Complications have arisen, however, as the United States is dealing with a surge in COVID-19 cases, and the Government of Canada granted clearance for its cities to serve as hosts.
"Three Canadian cities are asking for it," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters June 16. "Obviously the decision has to be made by the NHL and the cities and the provinces. Canada is open to it as long as it is OK'd by the local health authorities."
Along with Edmonton, Las Vegas and Toronto, other candidates included Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh and Vancouver.
Meanwhile, the NHL released a statement Monday revealing 26 players, 15 involved in activities at team facilities and 11 outside the league's Phase 2 protocol, have tested positive for the coronavirus since June 8.
Commissioner Gary Bettman said in mid-June he's confident the restart won't be "too gimmicky."
"I think everybody can feel good, based on the combination of the play-in round and the way we're going to run the playoffs, that this will be a full competition which will bring out the best in our teams and our players," Bettman told ESPN's Mike Greenberg. "The Stanley Cup champion will be deserving of that crown and the most storied trophy in all of sports."
Frank Seravalli @frank_seravalli
Last night, NHL and NHLPA agreed on interim extension on all expiring player contracts. They would have expired at midnight. Contracts are extended pending completion of new CBA and agreement on Phase 3 & 4. Part of agreement: any player can choose to opt-out of return to play.
The plan calls for Phase 3, which includes formal training camps, to begin sometime in July followed by a 24-team playoff tournament, likely beginning in August.
Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares recently expressed concern about a sudden increase in the number of players and team personnel interacting once the next two phases are agreed on.
"It only makes sense that eventually the groups are going to expand here in Phase 2," Tavares said, per ESPN's Greg Wyshynski. "To go from only seeing six guys and three or four staff members to possibly seeing 40 people at training camp doesn't really make a whole lot of sense, in the progression way of things."
The 2019-20 NHL season was halted March 12 because of the pandemic.
Bleacher Report's David Gardner interviews athletes and other sports figures for the podcast How to Survive Without Sports.