KAMLOOPS (NEWS 1130) — As Premier John Horgan lobbies for B.C. to host NHL games as the league looks to complete its regular season, the mayor of one of the hub cities mentioned isn’t optimistic it will happen.
Kamloops is home to the Western Hockey Leagues’ Blazers and their home rink, the Sandman Centre, has been floated as one of the venues where the NHL could host neutral-site games.
While Mayor Ken Christian says having WHL rinks host NHL games is a good thought, he isn’t sure it will work.
“I think the reality of that is a long way off, in my opinion,” he says.
“It’s a nice idea, conceptually. But I’m not particularly optimistic.”
Though the mayor does admit there are some positives if the city were to host the league.
“Of course, some hotel room nights, which are desperately needed right now, that would be a positive, and obviously the excitement in and around having NHL-calibre players here in the city would be wonderful.” he says.
“The other side of it, there is certainly a lot of costs in terms of us bringing our arena, that’s essentially been mothballed for two months, back to NHL-calibre play,” Christian explains.
He also says Horgan hasn’t reached out to him personally about the plan either.
Community hosting, ready or not?
The logistics of getting players, coaches, broadcast crews, and others to cities like Prince George, Cranbrook, and Kelowna, as well as the fact some of these rinks don’t even have ice right now lead him to believe Premier Horgan’s plan won’t come to pass.
“Most of those rinks don’t ice in them right now, so we’d have to prep that,” Christian says.
However, the mayor of Cranbook doesn’t see the same difficulties in bringing in the NHL.
“I think it would be a great opportunity for us to showcase our community, even though there’s not going to be people in the seats,” says Lee Pratt, adding having the players around and the television presence would be great.
He says he isn’t concerned about more people in the community since they would still follow self-isolating measures as needed.
“The rural communities, I don’t think, have been hit as hard with the pandemic either as the major centres,” the mayor says.
Pratt also says there are enough hotels and food services available if the NHL were to come to Cranbrook.
“We’ve hosted a number of good-sized conventions here in town and sporting events, so I don’t think accommodations would be a problem.”
“I guess we’ll all just have to wait and sit on pins and needles and see what the result of Premier Horgan’s request was,” Pratt says.
-With files from Sonia Aslam