NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently highlighted the US' inability to control the coronavirus pandemic relative to some of its neighbors.
Discussing the league's planned restart and the location of the hub cities where it will take place, Bettman said Canadian locales were chosen intentionally.
"It's not a coincidence that the hub cities are Toronto and Edmonton," Bettman said Friday, "because of our focus on health and safety, and because of where COVID-19 is and isn't."
Those cities, normally home to the Maple Leafs and Oilers, respectively, were selected with the players in mind above all else, Bettman said.
"First and foremost -- and you've heard us say it over and over again -- health and safety is driving all of our decisions, and all of our attention and focus. That's the primary focus of what we have to accomplish over the next couple months."
The Canadian province of Ontario by late July had seen about 39,000 cases of coronavirus and 2,800 deaths, while Alberta had about 10,000 cases and 180 deaths.
The Toronto Blue Jays, MLB's sole Canadian franchise, was forced to relocate its 2020 home games to Buffalo, NY, in order to complete the shortened season. The team would have had to quarantine for 14 days upon re-entering Canada after road trips to US cities in accordance with national protocols.
The NHL, though, in contrast to MLB, will not allow its teams to travel, and instead will confine them to the hub cities. MLB's restarted season hit a stumbling block soon after first pitch last week, when it was reported several Miami Marlins players had tested positive, prompting the suspension of at least two games on Monday.
NHL game action was slated to return Aug. 1, with a brief playoff qualifying tournament before the league advances to its postseason.