The Vancouver Canucks announced Thursday that their city will not be a 12-team "hub" if the NHL restarts its season this summer, despite speculation it had been one of the front-runners.
"From the beginning, our goal was to help the NHL get hockey back on the ice if we could. Although Vancouver won't be a Hub City, we are still excited to see hockey start up again," said Canucks Sports & Entertainment COO Trent Carroll.
The NHL season has been paused since March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The league and its players have approved a return to play format that features a 24-team Stanley Cup playoff tournament, with two hub cities hosting 12 teams from each conference.
The players have yet to officially approve a return to the ice this summer and have said that the identity of the hub cities will factor into their vote.
Chief among the criteria for selecting hub cities: the coronavirus infection rate; the ability to create a "bubble" of safety for players and personnel; hotel capacity; practice facilities; and potential recreational activities for players.
Vancouver appeared to check many of those boxes, but several reports this week indicated that the city's bid had hit a bump, as the province and the NHL had differing views on player safety.
"Vancouver, and anybody who's paying any attention at all knows, that it is the best possible place for them to come because we enforce public health rules in British Columbia thoroughly and completely," British Columbia health minister Adrian Dix said Thursday. "I love the NHL. I love the idea of hockey coming here, but I'm also the minister of health, and the players, and the fans, and those working in the arenas, and everyone in British Columbia expects the rules to apply to everybody. And that's our advantage in this, it's not a disadvantage in this."
TSN reported that Bonnie Henry, health officer for British Columbia, suggested there was an impasse on how to handle a positive test during the tournament. Henry felt there likely would have to be a pause in a series for a positive test. The NHL has indicated that it would remove a player from the series, but that a positive test would not necessitate a shutdown.
"Everything depends on the facts and the entire set of circumstances," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told TSN in April. "But, no, we do not believe that one positive test, even multiple positive tests, [would] necessarily shut the whole thing."
A source told ESPN last week that there was a "good chance" the NHL would have one or both hub cities in Canada. The league intensified talks with Edmonton and Toronto on Thursday. Las Vegas has remained a speculative front-runner for one of the hub cities, despite rising coronavirus numbers in Nevada.
Chicago and Los Angeles also are in the running. Columbus, Dallas, Pittsburgh and Minnesota dropped out of the running before Vancouver's removal from the race.