NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 23, 2020

by | Jun 23, 2020 | News, NHL | 9 comments

Phase 2 training groups expanded, update on the host city candidates, expiring player contracts tentatively extended to Oct. 31, plus the latest on John Tavares, Vladimir Tarasenko & more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.


SPORTSNET: Chris Johnston reported the NHL will allow voluntary small-group training to expand from groups of six to 12 players effective today. It is a continuation of Phase 2 of the league’s return-to-play plan.

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Matt Larkin reports Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares remains optimistic about the return-to-play plan despite 11 players testing positive for COVID-19 since Phase 2 began on June 8. Tavares, a return-to-play committee member, said the league and the NHLPA continue to listen to advice from infectious-disease experts.

Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares (Photo via NHL Images).

Certainly, you always have to be monitoring and preparing for the worst,” Tavares said. “But what we’ve been told by the experts and world health officials, everything they’re recommending, we’re more than capable of being able to come back and play as things continue to get better and improve. The other optimism I see is what’s gone on in other countries around the world that are a few weeks and steps ahead of us, especially in Europe, the soccer leagues in how they’ve handled it with their return to play. It seems there’s been some pretty positive progress. Some of those countries were hit pretty hard by the virus.”

Because players under Phase 2 haven’t faced league-imposed restrictions, Larkin feels it’s too early to declare last week’s positive tests as a threat to the return-to-play plan. The quarantine bubble under Phase 3 beginning July 10 would be much stricter. Nevertheless, Larkin believes the league could have a significant problem if cases still pop up among players in Phase 3.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Phase 3 will tell the tale. If COVID-19 cases spike during training camp, the league could be forced to reconsider its plans.

THE ATHLETIC (subscription required): Pierre LeBrun reports Las Vegas, Edmonton, Toronto, and Vancouver figure prominently among the six cities under considerations as hosts for Phase 4. Sources indicate Chicago remains in the running while Los Angeles keeps pushing. The NHL sent more detailed information on the hub city bids to the NHLPA for review.

LeBrun speculates it could be Vegas and Vancouver or Vegas and Edmonton, with Toronto just on the outside. Las Vegas’ proposed quarantine bubble is considered the tightest. If both bubble cities are in the west, the league isn’t concerned about home-ice advantage because there won’t be any fans in the stands.

THE SCORE: George McPhee, the Vegas Golden Knights president of hockey operations, believes Las Vegas is well-suited to become a host city.

“It’s a service business down there and they’re used to big, big events and they can handle this one,” said McPhee.

Edmonton, meanwhile, released details of its’ proposed Olympic Village-style set up for the players.

NBC SPORTS: Columbus and Minneapolis/St. Paul were ruled out as host city candidates.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Vegas’ bubble had better be the tightest because cases are rising there. Vancouver and Edmonton have significantly flattened its COVID-19 curve which bodes well for their respective host-city bids. The decision is expected at the end of this week.

SPORTSNET: The NHL and NHLPA have tentatively agreed to extend all expiring player contracts and work permits to the end of October pending approval of the return-to-play plan.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That includes players on the seven non-playoff clubs. The free-agent period usually begins on July 1. Looks like the market will instead open on November 1.


STLTODAY.COM: Vladimir Tarasenko took part in small-group training with several teammates on Monday. The St. Louis Blues winger had been sidelined since late October by a shoulder injury.

FOREVER BLUESHIRTS: New York Rangers winger Kaapo Kakko is exempt mandatory military service in his native Finland because he’s a type-1 diabetic.

THE SCORE: The International Ice Hockey Federation announced the 2021 World Championship will take place from May 21 to June 6. The 2020 championship was canceled due to COVID-19.

ESPN.COM: The Dallas Stars fired a visual effects designer over a racist comment made on social media.

STLTODAY.COM: Winger Chris Thorburn announced his retirement yesterday. He spent 801 games over 14 seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Atlanta Thrashers, Winnipeg Jets, and St. Louis Blues, tallying 53 goals and 134 points.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Best wishes to Thorburn in his future endeavors.


  1. LV/Ed gedderdone!!

    I just can’t envision LA

    In order of likelihood (not preference) IMHO….









    Re : “If both bubble cities are in the west, the league isn’t concerned about home-ice advantage because there won’t be any fans in the stands.“

    I’m almost there in full agreement…. certainly overall…. however players IN that “home” city technically don’t have to uproot/disrupt family (children… school; spouse…. work) if they then choose not to have them in a bubble; and in a family emergency…. they can rush to fam in a 30-40 min drive

    This would only affect a few players; but it is there

    There is also just the inherent “comfort” of your own “digs”

    …. so not a huge advantage by any stretch…. but slight

    If both in West…. flip a coin which conference goes where

    • I thought you said not preference? Pittsburgh isn’t being considered as a host city?

      • Pittsburgh WAS being considered as a host city. I just read an article stating that the league notified the team today that Pittsburgh is no longer in the running.

  2. I am thinking if there is more players getting the virus prior to the training camps, they hold the training camps in the hub cities. That would be more time in the bubble so probably more chance they would need to accomodate the player’s family as well.

  3. Anyone who cares about quality hockey, which requires quality ice, knows Las Vegas is one of the last places that should be considered for hosting hockey.

  4. Speaking as a fan in Edmonton…I DO NOT CARE where the Hub cities end up. Make Player Safety the Number One consideration.
    Strong “bubble” policies are key.
    Stay Tuned…

  5. 103 year old Granny chugs beer after beating Covid and your worrying about player safety of young athletes give me a break talk about over blown hype my God our world has turned soft. Maybe let the players wives play instead.

    • Obe, you can pull out weird cases to try and make your point, but the bottom line is 120,000 Americans are dead in 4 months from this virus. Likely lower than the actual number.

      Talking tough won’t change that.
      You can argue about the best way to balance the economy and save lives, but stating that this is nothing is simply just wrong.