Long considered as a potential hub city for the NHL playoffs when the league resumes actions, St. Paul is now officially out of the running, according to a report from The Athletic’s Michael Russo.
The NHL included the Twin Cities on a shortlist of 10 potential locations to host the postseason — one for the Eastern Conference playoffs, the other for the Western Conference.
Among the league’s considerations: COVID-19 conditions, testing capacity, government regulations, practice rink availability, and hotel availability and inventory.
The Xcel Energy Center would certainly figure to be up to snuff, the area is teeming with practice rinks and government regulations seem to have eased to the point where playing in Minnesota should have been feasible.
“It’s the biggest and best hockey market in the country,” Wild general manager Bill Guerin said last month. “There are rinks all over the place. We’ve got a great arena and a great practice rink. There are hotels. It just matches up, I’m obviously biased, but I think it’d be a perfect fit.”
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz previously expressed his support for the idea, saying “we certainly want to be a part of that.”
But while hotel availability around the Mall of America and in Minneapolis is high, there aren’t quite as many options in St. Paul. And the area’s state of unrest in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis likely also played a role in the city not being selected.
Columbus also reportedly is out of the running to be a host city. Las Vegas is widely considered a favorite to be one of the two hub cities, while three Canadian cities are also under consideration. Also still in the mix, according to The Athletic: Chicago and Los Angeles.
It’s not as though the site matters much to local fans. They almost certainly wouldn’t have been allowed to attend games regardless, as the postseason is expected to be held without spectators.
The Wild will face Vancouver in the best-of-5 play-in round of the playoffs, whenever postseason play begins. Players are slated to report to team sites for training camp July 10, but all plans seem tentative as COVID-19 cases fluctuate around the country. The Tampa Bay Lightning shut down their training facility last week after three players and additional staffers tested positive for the coronavirus.
Minnesota will host a major sporting event next month, when the PGA Tour’s 3M Open is played at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine. That tournament will be played without spectators.