If NHL returns from coronavirus hiatus, North Dakota could be an option

(Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

The NHL is considering playing the rest of the 2019-20 season in North Dakota if given the all-clear to resume play amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on Sunday night that the league and player’s association have put forth “spitball scenarios” in which the Great Plains-state would host the NHL’s remaining regular-season and playoff games. 

Play has been halted since March 12 with 11-to-14 regular-season games remaining for each team. 

While North Dakota does not have an NHL franchise — or any major professional sports team — there are viable venues available for use. 

The Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks hosted the 2005 World Junior Championships, the 2016 World Under-18 tournament, and the NCAA’s University of North Dakota Division I men’s hockey team. 

Friedman noted that travel scenarios, lodging, and North Dakota’s desire to host are natural hurdles that would have to be addressed, but the area could provide one of the safest places to resume play amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. 

North Dakota has the fourth-lowest population density in the United States with just 11 citizens per square mile. 

Of the 50 states, it also has the third-fewest reported cases of coronavirus with 240 cases and two deaths statewide. That’s less than one person affected per 100,000 people, per CNN. 

Given the unpredictable nature of the spread of the virus and the inconsistent parameters taken by each state to limit the outbreak, playing at a neutral site continues to become a more attractive option. 

While the NHL will discuss other possible cities to resume play this week, per Friedman, the NBA has been linked with housing all its playoff games in Las Vegas. 

There is no set date for a return to action as of yet — or even the promise that hockey will return this season. Most best-case scenarios, though, has play picking back up sometime in June or July. 

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