VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The NHL hasn’t approved it yet, but there’s a very interesting idea being floated that could be exactly what die-hard hockey fans have been waiting to hear since the league hit pause on the regular season more than two months ago.
The league could be considering hosting all games in B.C. as the province has proved it can control case numbers. This came up during a meeting this week with Premier John Horgan, Minister of Sport Lisa Beare, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, and other high-level league executives.
Horgan says we have the capacity to take this on.
“I believe we’re in a good place to host, that’s why I contacted the commissioner. The [Vancouver] Canucks have been working very cooperatively with my minister. We’ve heard from others around the league that have other ideas about perhaps having all of the games played in British Columbia. We have WHL rinks in Victoria, in Kamloops, Kelowna, Prince George, Cranbrook has an outstanding facility as well.”
He adds B.C. also has the hotel space to accommodate team management, players, and their families.
“Mr. Bettman and his team recognize that British Columbia has had a pretty positive response to COVID-19 in terms of flattening the curve. Mr. Bettman also knows that this is a hockey crazy province [and] we’d be happy to have hockey take place here so we can see current games on our televisions, but there are obstacles, obviously, in the way. A 14-day isolation period would be required — where we are in two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, is up to Dr. Bonnie Henry and how she feels we’re doing at managing the curve as we restart the economy,” Horgan says.
“I wanted to let the commissioner know that British Columbia stands ready to assist in looking at a plan brought forward by the players and the NHL and if we can make it work, I think that would be great for B.C. and it would be great for the NHL.”
“We’ve heard from others around the NHL that have other ideas about perhaps having all of the games played in British Columbia,” says @jjhorgan following his meeting with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman as BC flattens the curve. What do you think? Details on @NEWS1130.
— Sonia Aslam (@SoniaSAslam) May 13, 2020
The question many have is how feasible is it to have all those people come to B.C. in the midst of a pandemic?
Sat Shah, co-host of The Program on Sportsnet 650, says it could work if — what looks like a campus — is set up in communities to house everyone and to help reduce transmission. He thinks they could have one division, maybe two divisions in Vancouver, one division in Kelowna and another division in Victoria.
“It would be an easier option because the NHL could look at it as this just being the central province, that way you don’t need to worry about the NHL, for instance, trying to figure out a deal with the State of Florida, then figure out something with Ontario, something for B.C., then you have all these different workings,” he explains. “So, the pitch from B.C. is you could set up all the teams in one province and that way it’s one centralized province handling the entire league.”
Regardless of what steps the league takes, should it greenlight this idea, it’s impossible to eliminate all the risks associated with the pandemic.
“Every single business that’s trying to come back to some degree has to follow the guidelines set out by health authorities and they have to figure out a way to do safely and be able to conduct their business. Some will be able to pull it off and some will not be able to pull it off but it all has to fall within the guidelines of it being safe,” Shah says. “In theory, I understand the trepidation from communities of having a few hundred people converge in one area but what does mitigate the risk to some degree is they will be centralized in bubbles, they’re not going to be out walking around going to shopping malls and all that sort of stuff. So, there shouldn’t be a lot of exposure from the people in that bubble to the rest of the community, but of course, you can’t guarantee zero risk. That just doesn’t exist within a pandemic so it comes down to municipalities being able to be OK with it and it seems the province is OK with that level of risk at the moment.”
Shah says by mid-June is when the NHL needs to make a decision about whether it will move ahead with the 2019-2020 season and outline what that will look like. As the NHL weighs its options, not resuming play at all isn’t an option with Bettman saying not handing out the Stanley Cup is “not something I’m even contemplating.”
Players would have to go into quarantine for two weeks upon returning to their respective cities and at least two to three weeks to participate in training camp.
The Canucks (36-27-6) last played a game on March 10th.
The only two times in league history the NHL has not awarded the Stanley Cup were in 1919 because of the Spanish Flu and in 2005 because of the NHL lockout.