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Regal Rundown: The case for Los Angeles to host the NHL Return to Play

Just because the Kings aren’t in the postseason doesn’t mean Staples Center can’t be.

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Daily Life In Los Angeles Amid Coronavirus Outbreak Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images

Last week, all nine professional teams in Los Angeles joined with Casey Wasserman, the chairman of the LA 2028 Olympic organizing committee, to submit a plan to county supervisors on how to safely hold sporting events.

The plan involves daily temperature checks, weekly (at minimum) coronavirus tests, all personnel wearing masks except active athletes, banning outside catering, observing social distancing, and maintaining clean facilities.

The Kings cannot presently take advantage of this proposal, given their elimination from the NHL’s Return to Play postseason plan; however, Staples Center is in the running to be a host city for the league’s playoff games, and Kings COO Kelly Cheeseman feels that Staples Center and L.A. Live will be “well-prepared.”

There are a number of reasons to support Los Angeles as a hub city, as Helene Elliott outlined in the L.A. Times. Staples Center is used to hosting doubleheaders, and its staff can quickly engineer turnarounds between games. Those will presumably be expedited given that there is no basketball and all the games will be on ice.

Staples Center is also connected by tunnels to L.A. Live, allowing players and team personnel to commute between the arena and hotels without coming into contact with the populace. The L.A. Live hotels are also among the most luxurious any potential NHL hub city will have to offer.

Furthermore, the city of Los Angeles has enough coronavirus tests to test all asymptomatic citizens, so the NHL could have its own stable of tests without taking any away from the general public.

However, the virus is not yet contained in Los Angeles, as the county is responsible for nearly 56,000 of the state’s over 115,000 cases. Staples Center was ground zero for the outbreak among athletes that shut down professional sports leagues in March, which may not mean anything now, but it doesn’t help the optics. Also, the Kings’ practice facility is 15 miles away from Staples Center, and that will become cumbersome in L.A. traffic.

The county obviously has a strong economic incentives to bring sports back. Per a 2019 study from the Los Angeles Sports Council, sports were responsible for 39,000 jobs and $328 million in state and local tax revenue in Los Angeles and Orange County. If the NHL plays a portion of its remaining games in California, players would also have to pay the state’s jock tax.

The NHL won’t make its decision for a few weeks, but the spread of the virus and the lack of practice space seem to be key pitfalls in the Staples Center pitch. An improvement in health outcomes could allay one of those concerns, and most of the other options are imperfect, so Los Angeles could remain in the mix.

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