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Las Vegas still standing as Vancouver leaves NHL hub city race

Las Vegas is one of five cities still competing to be a hub for the NHL postseason after another competitor bowed out.

The Vancouver Canucks announced Thursday that their market won’t be one of the two hubs. The other cities still in the mix are Edmonton, Toronto, Chicago and Los Angeles.

“From the beginning, our goal was to help the NHL get hockey back on the ice if we could,” Canucks Sports & Entertainment chief operating officer Trent Carroll said in a statement. “Although Vancouver won’t be a hub city, we are still excited to see hockey start up again.”

Vancouver is the fifth market to be eliminated this week from the initial list of 10 finalists. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins said they were told that their cities were out of the running, and The Athletic reported that Minneapolis/St. Paul and Dallas were removed from consideration.

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an email to the Review-Journal on Monday the NHL wouldn’t have any comment “until there is something to announce.”

The NHL wants to resume its season this summer with the hub cities hosting the 24-team Eastern and Western Conference postseason. The league stopped play March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Las Vegas long has been considered a strong contender for one of the hubs because of the valley’s strong relationship with the NHL, its large number of hotel rooms and the highly regarded T-Mobile Arena. It’s still unknown if the Golden Knights would get to play in their home rink if the market is chosen.

Nevada’s recent COVID-19 numbers might give the league pause, however. The state’s infection rate rose for the eighth straight day Thursday to 5.83 percent, according to government data. Clark County reported 397 cases over the preceding day, well above the previous week’s daily average of 309.

By comparison, Edmonton’s province of Alberta reported 24 confirmed COVID-19 cases and two probable cases over the preceding day Wednesday despite a population of more than two million more than Clark County. Toronto’s province of Ontario reported 189 new cases over the preceding day despite having more than six times Clark County’s population.

The Canadian cities also have the advantage of being cheaper. One U.S. dollar was worth 1.36 Canadian dollars Thursday, according to the Bank of Canada.

Once the NHL selects its hub cities, attention will turn to health and safety protocols for Phase Three (training camps) and Phase Four (games) of its return-to-play plan. The players association must sign off on those before the targeted July 10 opening of training camps.

The league said June 19 that 11 of the more than 200 players who have been tested for COVID-19 since the opening of Phase Two (small-group workouts) received positive results.

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