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Lightning Round: Monday passes without a decision on NHL hub cities

Reports continue to suggest Toronto and Vegas are the leaders.

Las Vegas Remains Closed As Memorial Day Weekend Approaches Amid COVID-19 Pandemic Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Yesterday morning, Bob McKenzie started a thread on Twitter that suggested we might see an announcement on hub cities later in the day. But when later in the day came, he followed up with another thread that announced there was, yet again, nothing to announce.

Monday passed without any further decisions on hub cities or any further progress on getting to Phase 3 of the Return to Play plan. Bob tweeted a lot of info yesterday so I recommend checking his account but this thread in particular was probably the most interesting:

In it, he lists off the myriad issues that need to be resolved before Phase 3 can actually start. Because the league and the player’s association have decided to roll negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement into these discussions, the two sides are trying to resolve not only the items related to playing hockey during a pandemic but also all of the items related to the CBA.

The idea from Bob that I found most interesting was that he, like Elliotte Friedman, sees the NHL possibly moving to a new calendar entirely. He also suggested that new calendar makes the Olympics a moot point and that neither side is pursuing playing in the Olympics as part of the negotiations.

Depending on progress toward a vaccine and North Americans general ability to do anything to curb the spread of the virus in the meantime, the NHL could be looking at not just an adjusted calendar in the short term but over the next couple of years if they’re forced to start and stop games as outbreaks happen. In that scenario, it could be another full season or even multiple seasons before the NHL can get back a normal schedule of any kind. So it could be a bit of a merry-go-round situation where we’ll have to see where we are in the calendar when North America is able to resume full seasons with spectators before we know what the new NHL calendar will look like.

What the NHL did announce yesterday was updated testing results for players participating in Phase 2 activities. The league said that 15 players have now tested positive since Phase 2 started, which is an increase of only four positive tests since the first results were announced a little over a week ago. The league also noted that 11 players who were training on their own and not part of Phase 2 have tested positive.

While the goal is obviously to have no players testing positive, that number dropping to four in the last ten days or so is a step in the right direction. The challenge for everyone involved is going to be getting through Phase 2 and Phase 3 where everyone has more freedom of movement to Phase 4, which is the lockdown. The next few weeks will determine if players and staff are capable of training and practicing safely. If not, we might never make it to Phase 4. But if they can, that could be a positive sign that games will be possible with increased restrictions in Phase 4.

Other News and Notes

Copper and Blue wrote about Kevin Lowe being selected to the Hall of Fame. As with any numbers focused approach, he does not fare well in the analysis.

Lowe was a good player, and a part of some of the best teams ever. He won six cups. But, those are team accomplishments. The Hall of Fame is an individual honour, and without citing team accomplishments as his credentials, I don’t know what basis there is to consider Lowe to be a Hall of Fame player.

The Detroit Red Wings cancelled their annual prospect tournament in Traverse City. Of the preseason prospect tournaments, this is usually the biggest one. I wouldn’t expected any teams to proceed with those tournaments this year. That includes the Lightning who usually join with the Nashville Predators and Carolina Hurricanes to host their own tournament.

“The health and safety of our fans, players and staff is our top concern,” said Red Wings executive vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman. “Based on discussions with local health experts, we have decided to hold our 2020-21 training camp at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. We look forward to returning to Traverse City next year. The Traverse City community is extremely hospitable to our organization, and Centre Ice Arena is an ideal location for us to hold our events each September.”

Take a fun trip down Florida hockey memory lane with Litter Box Cats’ look at the West Palm Beach Blaze from the old Sunshine Hockey League. They started play during the same season as the Lightning and are one of the many parts of the early history of hockey gaining a foothold in Florida.

The West Palm Beach Blaze were one of four charter members, along with the Jacksonville Bullets, Lakeland Ice Warriors and Daytona Beach Sun Devils, of the Sunshine Hockey League, a Class A level minor-league loop that started up in the state of Florida in 1992, the same year the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning joined the NHL.

After three separate WHA teams, the Miami Screaming Eagles, Florida Breakers and Florida Ice Gators, failed to get off the ground during the 1970s, the Blaze was actually the first minor-professional team to lace ‘em up in South Florida in the modern era.