Tim Shipton lets out a deep breath. A laugh quickly follows.

The Edmonton Oilers senior vice-president of communications and government relations is pondering a question about how long the team has been working on its bid to serve as an NHL hub city, should the league return to action sometime this summer.

“It feels like months, if not years,” Shipton said. “Time works in a funny way right now. We’ve been deep on this thing.”

That thing is trying to convince NHL, which paused its season March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that their city is the right spot to host 12 teams as part of a plan to complete the 2019-20 season and award the Stanley Cup.

It could also wind up being entirely out of their hands.

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The NHL, which unveiled its return-to-play plan Tuesday that would feature 24 teams if the league is able to resume, announced that Vancouver and Toronto are also in the running along with Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis/St. Paul in the U.S.

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