On a number of levels, Columbus makes a lot of sense.
Multiple sheets of ice in the greater metropolitan area. Two NHL-quality arenas only a few miles apart. A proactive government and public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic that's seen Ohio turn a bad situation into one that's, at least, manageable.
When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman laid out the league's "Return To Play" plan last week, one of the news items was a list of cities under consideration to be hubs for (what we presume to be) 12 teams per city. Columbus has been widely reported to be a contender for hub status, but Bettman did not name the cities or commit to a firm timeline for naming them.
On a conference call Thursday, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen acknowledged the team's interest in being a hub city – and seemed confident in Columbus' bid, whether it's successful or not.
"We know we're among the candidates, and we think we should have a pretty good chance considering all the criteria that are required to become a hub city. I think we meet all of them and we're hoping we will be one of (the hubs)," Kekalainen said on the call.
Kekalainen mentioned the Chiller ice rinks in the Columbus area as part of the team's proposal. While it's believed that any NHL games would be played at Nationwide Arena during multiple time slots throughout the day, practice ice around the city (including the attached OhioHealth Ice Haus) could be used for the 12 clubs in town.
Columbus also has the requisite hotel accommodations in and around the downtown area. Teams and their support staff – parties limited to no more than 50 people – would be quarantined and the NHL's plan calls for daily COVID-19 testing once it reaches Phase 4 (return to play).
Both Bettman and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly have said the league is 3-4 weeks away from identifying its hub cities.