The NHL is still holding discussions in an effort to find a way to have the season resume. While nothing definitive has been decided and may not be for some time, some reports have surfaced about what a potential restart could look like. Gary Bettman and others are trying to find any idea they can to make something work.
According to both the New York Post and the Athletic, it is believed that Columbus is being strongly considered to become one of the host cities should the NHL resume in 3-4 cities across North America. (From LeBrun: Inside NHL’s Centralized Sites Process and the Latest on a June Draft, Pierre Lebrun, the Athletic, 4/24/20.) (From NHL Hub Cities: Evaluating the Markets Where the Hockey Season Could Resume, Craig Morgan, Michael Russo and Joe Smith, the Athletic, 4/24/20.)
In fact according to the NHL Hub Cities piece in the Athletic, Columbus was their first city listed as a top contender to host other teams should the season resume. That is some very high praise about what the city and the Blue Jackets do offer.
Seeing Columbus in this conversation is not surprising. Assuming the league gets a green light from government officials within Ohio and Franklin County, Columbus would make for a perfect host city.
I’m going to try to break that down for you. Columbus would fit the needs of NHL teams coming in. Remember if something like this happens, it could last months assuming a team enjoys any kind of playoff success.
First, let’s think about what would need to be available in this kind of situation. This would need to be a bare minimum.
- Hotel space preferably near the arena that can accommodate multiple NHL teams at once that meets housing criteria.
- Facilities that can accommodate these teams including dressing rooms and practice facilities.
- The government would have to deem the area a non-hotspot for Covid-19. One would imagine access to consistent testing would be part of something like this (Hello Ohio Health, OSU Medical Center and others.)
Another thing to consider is that an arena who doesn’t have to share with another team would get a bump. Columbus checks off that box too as there is no NBA team or other sports franchise they would share Nationwide Arena with. With no fans attending, these NHL teams would know that it is just themselves that would be convening within Nationwide Arena or its general vicinity.
This seems like a slam dunk but until it’s official, nothing is official. Columbus can easily check off the above requirements to make for a great host city. We will now break down the three above categories and tell you why this is something the city of Columbus could easily pull off.
Columbus not only has great hotels on their checklist, these hotels are within a short distance of Nationwide Arena.
The first one of these is the Hilton Downtown. It sits just footsteps away from the arena. This is also where most visiting teams to Columbus stay. With over 500 rooms within the hotel, it can easily accommodate even multiple teams if necessary. But there are plenty of other options.
The Crowne Plaza Downtown is also footsteps from the Arena with 377 rooms available. Then if we add the Hyatt Regency located near the Hilton with another 600+ rooms, that’s over 1500 rooms that could see Nationwide Arena out their window.
There is also the Renaissance Downtown under a mile away with another 400 rooms available and the Westin about a mile away with around 200 rooms. Then consider all of the amenities around these hotels and you can see that Columbus fits the bill for any visiting team that would come in. Adequate housing is in abundance.
Another important factor to consider is the facilities available to accommodate multiple visiting teams. Columbus checks this box off too.
Nationwide Arena itself does have four dressing rooms available. They also have a practice rink connected to it with the Ice Haus. The main rink and the Ice Haus are just footsteps apart.
Columbus also has the big advantage of being the home of a major NCAA team with the Ohio State Buckeyes. Both Value City Arena and the OSU Ice Rink have practice facilities available while offering more dressing rooms. In terms of how far away these are, you’re talking 10 minutes assuming traffic cooperates.
There are other rinks such as the Chiller Ice Rinks that offer facilities that would help meet this requirement. There is no shortage of places or convenience for anyone involved.
Latest Covid-19 Numbers
In terms of the latest Covid-19 numbers for Columbus and Franklin County, they are not one of the current hot spots in the United States. The county has reported 1,839 confirmed cases as of this writing with 50 deaths. These numbers are below the national average rates.
The state of Ohio as a whole is starting to see the number of new cases decrease as we go indicating a flattening of the curve that needs to be seen. The outlook overall seems positive in this region. That could be enough for the NHL to proceed with Columbus as a viable option should the season resume.
Columbus really does have everything to offer the NHL to make this work. From housing to facilities to proximity, it’s the best of all worlds. Plus Columbus works as a centralized location for a lot of teams. The teams in the East just need a short flight to get to Columbus.
At the end of the day, Columbus checks off all the boxes better than most cities at this point. If and when we see a resumption of the season, don’t be surprised if Columbus and the Blue Jackets play the role of host. The players would love the setup. Now will it become reality? Only time will be able to answer that question.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.