'This is going to be a big deal': Toronto officially named one of NHL hub cities
TORONTO -- Toronto has been officially named one of the hub cities for the resumption of the 2020 NHL season, and Mayor John Tory says it will help the city's economy get back on its feet.
"At a time when there are no people coming, when there are no flights coming and when the hotels are basically empty, this is going to be a big deal," Tory told CP24 in an interview on Friday evening after the decision was announced.
"It's going to fill up at least two hotels and probably more for several weeks.”
In April, the city projected a $1.5 billion loss in revenue this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The mayor described that figure as a "best-case scenario."
The NHL and NHL Players' Association announced that they have ratified return-to-play protocols, which include Toronto and Edmonton as hub cities, and a four-year extension to the current collective bargaining agreement.
"While we have all worked very hard to try to address the risks of COVID-19, we know that health and safety are and will continue to be our priorities," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement.
"We know that all of our fans are excited about our return to the ice."
TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie said the agreement gives players and team owners a six-year runway to repair the significant economic damage done by COVID-19 to the league.
"I'm sure there are players that don't love everything about this return to play or this CBA. And I'm sure there are some owners that don't love it either," McKenzie said.
"But when you weigh the decision that had to be made in terms of two years of economic Armageddon, and then an uncertain future after that versus six years of knowing how you're going to manage the economics of the game, well, obviously that was the choice that both the owners and the players made."
The mayor credited the league and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment for making this happen. He said both organizations went through a painstaking process to satisfy all medical officers of health in all levels of government.
"There were a lot of requirements. Nobody was going to let this happen without making sure that you can keep all the players and all the officials and everybody safe, but also all the people of those cities, Edmonton and Toronto," Tory said.
He believes the modified NHL season will be a good national unifier.
"It is going to put the spotlight on Toronto across North America in terms of the hockey world. When people do start visiting again, they'll once again see our city like they did when the Raptors were in the finals last year," he said.
Toronto will host the eastern conference while Edmonton will hold the western conference.
The Toronto Maple Leafs will face the Columbus Blue Jackets in the qualifying round.
"It would make the fans very happy and proud that those games are going on inside our arena," Tory said.
"I look forward to that delicious moment when in the arena in Edmonton since the finals are going to be played there, the mayor of Edmonton has to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs hoisting the Stanley Cup."
- with files from The Canadian Press