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Wild interested in St. Paul being an NHL "hub city" when games restart

Sarah Mclellan, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Hockey

The NHL is still exploring the possibility of finishing the season in centralized locations, and St. Paul might be in the mix.

Two to four cities could be selected to host games when the league returns, and the Wild is interested in being one of those hubs, a source confirmed Tuesday.

During a digital interview earlier this week with Leaders Week, a sports business conference, Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league is evaluating "probably eight or nine different places" that can accommodate "a dozen or so teams in one location."

This idea took center stage in the NHL's relaunch efforts after the league backed off the concept of neutral-site games since arenas in non-NHL cities wouldn't have the infrastructure necessary to stage multiple games each day.

That's one of the expectations for these hub cities, along with a practice facility and four NHL-caliber locker rooms. Xcel Energy Center has six locker rooms on its event level, and the Tria Rink -- the Wild's practice facility -- is less than a mile away.

Despite the NHL focusing on this potential plan, Bettman said "a great deal of uncertainty" persists and there's no fixed timetable to resume after the league suspended play on March 12 amid the coronavirus pandemic with a combined 189 games to go in the regular season.

 

Players remain scattered and getting everyone back to their NHL cities might not be easy with border restrictions and quarantine guidelines. The closure of the border between the United States and Canada for nonessential travel was extended another 30 days Tuesday, to June 21, and Bettman said 17% of players are outside North America.

How a centralized setup affects families is also a concern for players.

"Nobody with kids is going to want to be away for three or four months at a time," Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk said earlier this month. "I think that's a lot to ask out of guys."

Testing is another hurdle.

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