It’s an announcement that has been anticipated for weeks: the NHL officially declaring its plan to resume the season and have Edmonton host games at Rogers Place as one of two hub cities.
Details have been reported and the NHL return to play plan has been released, but a full package including the collective bargaining agreement must be approved by the league’s owners and players before it’s official.
If that goes smoothly, training camps will open on July 13, before those teams are expected to travel to Edmonton and Toronto on July 26. They’d have a week of exhibition games and practices before the qualifying round of playoffs would start on Aug. 1. The Stanley Cup would be presented in October.
If all goes to plan, 24 teams would resume the 2019-20 season and Edmonton would host the Western Conference teams.
Those teams will need extra space to practice beyond Rogers Place and the adjoined Downtown Community Arena. The City of Edmonton has been working with the Oilers Entertainment Group to provide Terwillegar Rec Centre’s four ice surfaces, which would be separated from the public.
“Details haven’t been finalized. It’s still a work in progress. That’s the degree of need from a practice perspective to support the NHL hub city efforts,” said Adam Laughlin, interim city manager.
Teams will be able to bring 52 people, including ownership, staff and coaches and all will have to remain within a bubble or secure zone, the NHL’s phased return to sport protocol states.
The Oilers’ hub city bid emphasized Edmonton’s downtown pedway systems connecting to Rogers Place and hotels as a selling point. Mayor Don Iveson confirmed three downtown hotels would host players if the plan is approved.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House is one of Edmonton’s downtown restaurants that would like to be considered within the bubble or secure zone. This would make them a host for the NHL teams, which could make for steady business.
“We have to wait for the announcement but we’re fully prepared. Not only the staff but we have a lot of space in this restaurant,” said Taylor Medak, hospitality manager with Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
“We can accommodate many large groups. the restaurant is certainly capable of adapting to that and having that large volume into our restaurant.”
More protocol details
Here are a few more details about the NHL’s phased return to sport protocol:
The secure zones will include hotels, restaurants, practice facilities and the arena, where exhibition, qualifier and post-season games will be played.
Anyone in the secure zone must wear a mask when outside their room. Coaches and officials will not be required to wear masks during games.
Family members would be allowed to join players in the secure zone for the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final.
Each player will be tested three times for COVID-19 in the seven days prior to the team’s charter flight to the hub cities. Once in the secure zone, they’ll be tested and screened daily.
Players will only be allowed to leave the secure zone and return for medical reasons or circumstances like a birth of a death in the family. They’ll have to quarantine in their hotel room and receive four consecutive negative tests in four days before being allowed to play.
Players who leave without permission will have to quarantine for 10-14 days.
The league is expected to provide boundary maps of the secure zones when the plan is officially approved.