TORONTO — The NHL is defending its decision to have an American television network provide the world feed of its restart in Toronto, a move that isn’t supported by Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

An NHL spokesperson says the NBC crew will be part of the league’s secure zone inside its bubble when games start in Toronto later this summer.

Sportsnet will provide the world feed from Edmonton, the league’s other hub city during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gary Meagher, the NHL’s executive vice president, communications, says approximately 95 per cent of the 2,000 people outside of teams and league staff working at arenas and hotels during the 60-day Stanley Cup tournament will be Canadian.

Meagher says Sportsnet and NBC, the league’s national television rightsholders in North America, both expressed the desire to help produce the world feed, whether the cities were in Canada or the United States.

The NHL officially named Toronto and Edmonton as hub cities last Friday for games starting Aug. 1. The conference finals and Stanley Cup final will be in Edmonton.

Seven American cities and three Canadian cities were originally in the running to be hubs. The NHL has said rising COVID-19 rates in several of the American cities made an all-Canadian return more desirable.

“Our plan (and obligation) from the outset was to have each of these industry leaders involved to bring our fans the most ambitious broadcast schedule in league history,” Meagher said in an email.

Ford, during his daily press conference on Tuesday, said he figures Canadians could have done the job.

“I believe we have good enough workers here,” he said. “But I don’t control the NHL contract, the NHL signed the contract with NBC. My hands are tied. I wish I could break the contract and let’s use Canadian workers. This is about supporting people in Ontario, supporting Canadian workers. In saying that, unfortunately, I guess the NHL signed with NBC.”

Ford said the NBC involvement wasn’t part of early negotiations.

“This was thrown on us pretty well last minute,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to get the NHL up and moving. Unfortunately, this wasn’t in the original plans. We found out late, but now the horse has left the barn and we have to get the NHL moving forward. It’s for a short period.”

Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy public health officer, said members of the NBC crew would be subject to regular testing, just like others in the NHL bubble.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 14, 2020.

The Canadian Press