One of the interesting wrinkles of the National Hockey League’s redesigned playoff format to conclude the 2019-20 regular season is the loss of home-ice advantage.
The creation of hub cities – reportedly Toronto and Edmonton – is designed to create the safest environment possible for teams to return to play. The idea is that putting players, coaches, and support staff in a tightly controlled area will minimize the possibility of coronavirus spread through rigorous testing, tracing and isolation procedures.
Whether or not the league can pull this off is still anyone’s guess, and there are any number of moving pieces that could jeopardize the current plan. For now, the league and the NHLPA are working together to push through Phase 2 and towards the NHL reopening.
But the hub city setup, which covers the entirety of the postseason, will effectively eliminate home-ice advantage.
These games will be played in empty arenas void of fans – no raucous arenas means no pressure for referees to appease home crowds through penalty calls or non-calls, and certainly none of the off-ice perks that a standard home game delivers. (It’s also worth noting that a shorter five-game series, as opposed to the normal seven-game series, may lend itself to added randomness.)