Dr. Bonnie Henry opens door to special arrangements for NHL teams visiting B.C.

Dr. Bonnie Henry opens door to special arrangements for NHL teams visiting B.C.

After the possibility seemed fleeting that any Canadian city would become a host site for NHL playoff games, Dr. Bonnie Henry has offered hockey fans in British Columbia the slightest shred of hope.

Earlier this week, B. C. officials stressed that they wouldn’t bend the 14-day self-isolation rules for NHL players crossing into Canada, however, Dr. Henry has since made a clarification on her comments suggesting that she might be open to a special arrangement.

The province’s top doctor has said that it is possible visiting NHL teams would be allowed to quarantine as a group, instead of by themselves.

According to Dr. Henry, B.C. is considering matching Alberta’s bid to become one of two hockey hub sites when (and if) the National Hockey League season resumes in the summer. B.C.’s provincial health officer believes that Alberta’s proposal to isolate entire teams in hotels near a hockey rink could work in British Columbia.

“We certainly have been talking about how it could be done safely in British Columbia as well,” said Dr. Henry, showing that B.C. officials do have an interest in making things work.

Despite B.C. Premier John Horgan suggesting that he had been talking with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in previous weeks, Dr. Henry points out that she has yet to see an official plan sent by the league.

“The bottom line is I have not seen any proposal, certainly not any written proposal from the NHL about how this could be proposed worked. So it’s hard to respond to what we think they might be thinking,’ said Dr. Henry. “I do see how we could potentially have small numbers of people cohorting together in self-isolation, for example in a hotel, and management monitored regularly. And I know if anybody could do that then the NHL is probably set up to do it. I can see how we could have something like that work in British Columbia as well.”

Although Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto were all featured on a shortlist of ‘hub cities’ by the NHL to host playoff games, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly has come forward saying that if players must quarantine for a full 14 days upon entering the country, the league “won’t be in a position to use any of the Canadian cities as a hub city.”

While Dr. Henry suggests British Columbia hasn’t seen a league proposal, Edmonton decided not to rest on its laurels. The Alberta government sent a proactive plan to the NHL, proposing a method that officials said balances the risk of inviting international players into the province with the economic benefits of being a hub city.

In the meantime, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has written a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in an attempt to have the federal government label professional athletes and team staff as essential workers.

“Such an exemption from the Canadian government would be necessary for (Edmonton’s) bid,” Kenney wrote in the letter. “The Government of Alberta believes there are effective strategies in place to mitigate any risk to our province if such an exemption was granted.”

Both Dr. Henry and Alberta’s chief medical officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, are implying that even though alternatives are being looked at, they are not talking about waiving the quarantine requirements.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Premier Horgan echoed these sentiments suggesting there was no reason for the government to make concessions in a jurisdiction that has done well to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Graham CoxGraham Cox

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