If the NHL returns this season, British Columbia is on the fast track to hosting games.
Premier John Horgan spoke to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday, and the premier says he was told the province is well positioned as the NHL considers options for resuming the 2019-20 season.
“The NHL has a good track record in Vancouver. The 50th year of the [Vancouver Canucks] franchise is this year. What a great way to celebrate that 50 years, to bring hockey back to Canada and North America, to bring hockey back to B.C.,” Horgan said.
“Mr. Bettman didn’t give us a timeline at all. He was encouraged the province was supporting the initiative. We are hopeful Mr. Bettman will have more to say in the weeks ahead.”
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Sport Minister Lisa Beare has been working with the Vancouver Canucks to coordinate the use of Rogers Arena, and potentially other arenas in Metro Vancouver and other parts of the province.
The NHL is looking for cities with the right facilities, enough hotel spaces and a good track record dealing with COVID-19. B.C. reported just seven new confirmed cases of the virus on Tuesday.
Horgan said he and Bettman agreed the top priority when considering a return to the ice is the safety of the players.
“There are various factors at play here. First and foremost the safety of payers and the safety of the community where the NHL would operate,” Horgan said.
There are still a number of issues the NHL and NHL Players Association needs to work out before determining what a return of the NHL would look like.
One of the options on the table are hub cities, where a community like Vancouver would host multiple teams in order to limit travel and allow for the playoffs to be completed.
B.C. premier talks to NHL commissioner about Vancouver being ‘hockey hub’
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says she will have to review and approve any plan from the NHL to operate in the province.
“There’s a lot of ifs around this. In theory, I think it’s a really great idea. Of course it will depend on timing, where we are in our phases,” Henry said.
“I also think that I would need to see a very detailed plan of how they will meet our requirements. Right now there’s no changes that we are foreseeing in requirements for self-isolation for people who have come into B.C. from outside the country.
“The ability to monitor, to care for people, to make sure that testing is available, it would be part of my criteria that it would not have any impact on our ability to test here in B.C., or for anybody in B.C. to get the testing or assessment or the care that they need,” Henry added.
Both Horgan and Henry have mentioned players being required to wear full faceshields. Currently NHL players wear either visors or no visors, with only players recovering from injuries wearing a full shield.
Concerns have been raised about the NHL bringing hundreds of people to a community and increasing the risk of spreading the virus. Health Minister Adrian Dix says the NHL will be treated like any organization wanting to operate in the province during the pandemic and aftermath.
“What’s going to happen is that, as in every other case, as in every other industry, we have to assess real plans and work together to ensure that everybody is safe, and that applies to the NHL as it applies to every single other organization, and that’s what’s going to happen in B.C.,” Dix said.
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