CHICAGO -- The NHL reportedly has chosen Edmonton and Toronto as the hub cities to host the playoffs -- and the league will let teams play on home ice -- a combination that creates a distinct disadvantage for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Sportsnet, TSN and CBC Sports all reported Wednesday that the two Canadian cities will be announced as NHL hubs. A league official the Chicago Tribune reached Wednesday could not verify those selections.
If that is the case, it not only means Chicago is out of the running as a hub city candidate, but also creates a scenario in which the 12th-seeded Hawks would have to play up to five games in their play-in series against the fifth-seeded Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place, the Oilers' arena.
Last month, league officials said they preferred to have the 12 Western Conference teams play in the eastern hub, and vice versa, to avoid any appearance of a team having home-ice advantage. But Sportsnet reported the hubs likely won't switch conferences. That means Edmonton would host the Western Conference series.
Some players and team executives have downplayed the significance of home ice because games will be played without fans present. And league safety protocols likely would sequester all players, regardless of whether they're in their home city.
The Hawks played one of their three games against the Oilers this season in Edmonton, losing 5-3 on Feb. 11.
Onetime hub city front-runner Las Vegas likely fell out of favor with the NHL's Return to Play committee as cases of COVID-19 spiked in Nevada in recent days. In fact, there has been a resurgence of positive coronavirus tests across the United States, including Illinois, where health officials Tuesday confirmed 724 new cases and 23 additional deaths.
The league announced Monday that 26 players have tested positive for the coronavirus, 15 of which were discovered through Phase 2 protocols as players returned to team training facilities for voluntary workouts.
The Hawks resumed practicing June 10 when a few players began voluntary workouts -- with safety protocols in place -- at Fifth Third Arena. The 24 teams in the return-to-play field are scheduled to begin training camp July 10.
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