VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — As a fan of hockey, B.C.’s top doctor says there may be a way to salvage the rest of the NHL season without exposing fans or players to COVID-19.
Dr. Bonnie Henry says the question of how and when any sports might return is one countries have been grappling with as lockdowns are lifted and restrictions ease.
“We’ve been looking at how you can have this type of sporting event safely around the world,” Henry said Monday.
“I absolutely think that these are the types of things that we need to think about. How we can do this safely during the summer?”
If games are played in Vancouver this year, precautions will be in place.
“I would not see there being an in-ice audience but we could broadcast the games,” she said.
“There’s ways that players can take precautions to make sure that there’s physical distancing. When we think of hockey –which I love– people are already wearing facemasks. So there’s ways that players are protected when they’re on the ice.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday that players would — at a minimum — need to follow quarantine protocols if they were to arrive in Canada while the border remains closed due to the pandemic.
“I think it’s a question we’ll have to look into,” Trudeau said in a press briefing. “Certainly at a strict minimum, anyone who arrives from another country will have to follow all the rules of quarantine in an extremely strict manner, but we’re not there yet in our discussions with the NHL.”
“We recognize that it’s a possibility, but it depends on an enormous amount of things, and I don’t want to speculate on this until there’s more discussion.”
Could Vancouver be a ‘hockey-pod?’
The Associated Press reported earlier this week that Edmonton and Toronto were being looked at as possible “hockey pod” cities that could host the remainder of the NHL season during the summer months. Games would be played in air-conditioned arenas without fans.
A person familiar with discussions told The Associated Press that the most aggressive timetable would have players returning to their home rinks as early as May 15, followed by a training camp and possible exhibition games in June.
Under that timeline, the regular season would resume in July with the Stanley Cup final likely stretching into September.
The league and NHL Players’ Association have formed a joint committee to determine a path forward that could get games back on the ice sometime in July without fans in attendance.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said recently that no decisions have been made and noted that government and medical officials will ultimately make the call on when sports can return.
The season was paused on March 12, one day after the World Health Organization classified the COVID-19 spread a pandemic — and one day after the NBA suspended its season following a positive novel coronavirus test on a Utah Jazz player.
As of early April, eight NHL players had tested positive for COVID-19, including five players on the Ottawa Senators.
Each team had between 10 and 14 games remaining on its regular-season schedule at the time of the suspension.
Four Canadian teams — Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg — were all in playoff position as of March 12, with Vancouver on the bubble.
With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press