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Lightning Round: Could Tampa become a hub city for the 2020-21 season?

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The sports life of Tampa is really busy this year.

Florida Panthers v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

Yesterday Justin mentioned in his Lightning Round that the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Amalie Arena could become a potential home city for the Toronto Raptors due to current Canadian travel restrictions for the next season. The one thing that could affect this decision is the Lightning’s desire to become a hub for the next NHL regular season.

As the Athletic reporter Joe Smith said in his latest Lightning mailbag, Tampa has already let the league know that they’re interested in being one of the hub cities, if the NHL will made a decision to go this way. Tampa was one of the candidates for hosting the 2020 playoffs too, but eventually lost to Toronto and Edmonton.

Tampa let the league know it would be interested in being a hub; it made a pitch to be one of the bubble cities in the playoffs, too. The city has hosted major league events, like the NHL All-Star Game and Stanley Cup Final. There are four dressing rooms at Amalie Arena. But one pre-requisite is likely having a hotel or two near the arena or practice facility that can accommodate four to six teams plus traveling parties.

The NHL Board of Governors and the NHLPA had another meeting on Wednesday but still haven’t reached a definitive decision. The league is still aiming January 1 as the potential date of start, there isn’t yet information on whether fans will be allowed to the rinks, although it’s highly unlikely given the current situation. The most possible option is playing in regionally divided divisions, hosting by four different hub cities, with Canada having its own division. The conditions likely won’t be as strict as during the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the teams will be rotated every few weeks.

The NHL’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly in his interview with the Tampa Bay Times also said that Tampa is considered a strong candidate, mentioning that Amalie Arena has all the necessary infrastructure near the facility.

“In terms of the boxes that need to be checked and the things that we’re looking for, certainly Tampa is an attractive possibility on a host of levels, including the fact that I think players would enjoy Tampa as a base for operations as opposed to some other cities,” Daly said.

“Certainly, if we went that direction (for hub cities) — and I’m not suggesting that we’re going that direction — but if we end up deciding to go that direction, certainly Tampa would be strongly considered.”

Another thing that could affect the NHL’s decision is the Super Bowl, which is hosted in the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa and is scheduled for February 4. Having three major events at the same time – such as the NHL’s hub, the home rink for the Toronto Raptors and the Super Bowl – could complicate the logistic situation in the city. However if the NFL will reduce stadium capacity by 20 percent, as it was stated before, it will definitely help.

Lightning Links

Ryan Kennedy of the SI composed a list of the top 100 NCAA Players to Watch in 2020-21. The season has been given a green light and starting is already tonight. The top prospect of the 2021 NHL Draft Owen Power is leading the list and three Lightning prospects made the top 100.

21. Magnus Chrona

40. Sammy Walker

92. Max Crozier

Don’t forget about our Top 25 Under 25 list. Yesterday Hardev wrote a profile of defenceman Eamon Powell, who was selected in the fourth round of the 2020 draft [Raw Charge]

Powell as a prospect has quite a few exciting qualities with respect to his game. He’s been described as doing lots of things well as a defenseman on both sides of the puck without any glaring holes to speak of. He skates well, has good vision, anticipates the game well, is positionally sound in his own zone, and has a big shot. Lots of things to like.

In his mailbag Joe Smith also addressed the lack of rumours regarding the Bolts, supposing that when the teams will be given a definitive schedule for the next season, the trade and contract talks will intensify [The Athletic, paid content]

The Lightning front office tends to keep things pretty tight-lipped, dating back to the days of former-GM Steve Yzerman. It can be frustrating for fans (and media), but that’s how they do business. But, overall, I believe one reason why you haven’t heard many rumors is that there hasn’t been much news the past month, other than the signings of Pat Maroon and Luke Schenn. GM Julien BriseBois has worked the phones and tried to put together a plan for potential deals, but the market has been slowed partly due to the uncertainty around the start of next season and the flat cap. One GM told me on Thursday that it’s so quiet it reminds him of the typical dog days of August in regular offseasons, where “nearly nothing happens.” I think there will be more action when teams have a deadline for the start of the season and camp, which could begin as early as mid-December if the season opens Jan. 1.

Around the Hockey

Well, the first news is not really hockey. Kim Ng has become the woman and Asian-American to be a general manager in Major League Baseball. Will the NHL follow their steps?

The Ottawa Senators signed a forward Michael Haley to a one-year, league minimum contract.

Recently the OHL announced that the bodychecking will be banned in the next season, causing a lot of discussion about whether it is a rational decision. Emily Sadler of Sportsnet asked a health expert if the bodychecking actually could cause a transmission of COVID. [Sportsnet]

There’s no doubt that contact sports are in a difficult position, especially as health officials continue to advocate physical distancing as the most effective weapon against COVID-19. But from a scientific perspective, the move to eliminate bodychecking begs the question: Does it actually increase a player’s likelihood of contracting the virus?

According to one expert, bodychecking may be less of a risk factor in this regard than some would assume.

“We can debate about the risks of bodychecking and body contact for other things, but if we’re talking about COVID risk? I think checking is pretty low on the level of things that are going to put players at risk,” Dr. Stephen McGregor, an exercise physiologist and professor at Eastern Michigan University, told Sportsnet.

The NHL teams continue the reveal the sneak peeks of their reverse retro jerseys. Still waiting on the Lightning’s ones.