Canada has approved the NHL’s return-to-play plan that could lead to one or more cities in the north of the border serving as host sites for its 24-team playoff format.
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced on Friday that the nation’s top public health officer in Alberta, Ontario, and British Columbia had signed off on the NHL proposal.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an email to The Associated Press that the decision followed discussions with the government’s health officials, and comes as the league enters the advanced stages of choosing its hub cities from a list including seven in the U.S. and three in Canada.
Daly didn’t rule out the possibility of two hubs located in Canada from among Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver.
However, the NHL encountered a setback in its bid to resume since the season was postponed on March 12.
The Tampa Bay Lightning indefinitely closed their facilities on Thursday after three players and staff members tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The team said that the players were largely asymptomatic and self-isolating.
The move came when baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies announced some of their players and staff had tested positive in nearby Florida, Clearwater, and the Toronto Blue Jays had one player show symptoms consistent with the virus in nearby Dunedin, Florida.
The NHL also announced late Friday that 11 of its 200 players tested since training facilities, which were allowed to open on June 8, have tested positive. They are self-isolating. However, the league declined to say who.
NHL players were allowed to return to their respective facilities for voluntary on- and off-ice workouts two weeks ago. Players were allowed to skate in groups of up to six each time.
The NHL’s return-to-play proposal approved by Canada required an exemption that allowed players and team officials to cross the border which is currently closed to non-essential travel till at least July 21, and those entering Canada have to self-isolate for 14 days.