B.C. Premier John Horgan said he is pleased Vancouver remains in the running as a potential hub city to complete the National Hockey League season, but stressed the province is not prepared to bend rules on the 14-day self-isolation required for players and team officials.
“We will not waive the rules, actually the rules of Canada, which require a 14-day isolation period when you’re coming into the country,” Horgan said during a press conference on Wednesday. “I’m not going to ask for those rules to be bent today on the prospect of games potentially being played eight weeks from now.”
Horgan did not want to rule out the NHL coming to Vancouver, saying “two weeks from now, four weeks from now, it could be a completely different story. Today, there’s a 14-day self-isolation period in place and I expect we’ll see that for the foreseeable future.”
British Columbia Premier John Horgan has been vocal about Vancouver as a hub, but struck a more cautious tone than his Alberta counterpart on Wednesday.
“We have rules in place today that we worked very hard to establish. Because the NHL made an announcement that involved Vancouver, we’re not going to go rushing to change that,” Horgan said. “Two weeks from now, four weeks from now, it could be a completely different situation provided we continue to see the progress that we’ve seen here in British Columbia.
Horgan’s comments are in line with Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s health officer, who said the government won’t be making any concessions in a jurisdiction that has done well to minimize infections.
“I would love to have hockey, but we have been very clear, and the premier has been very clear, that we’re not bending the rules in any way that would put what we have achieved here in B.C. at risk,” Henry said Tuesday. “I’ve yet to see a plan. I’m happy to see what we can do, but we won’t be changing rules that would put anybody at risk or would undo the good work that we’ve done.”
The NHL, which unveiled its return-to-play plan Tuesday that would feature 24 teams if the league is able to resume, announced that Vancouver and Toronto are also in the running along with Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis/St. Paul in the U.S.
The goal is to name two cities, but deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the Canadian government’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone entering the country would make markets north of the 49th parallel a non-starter.
“If we’re not able to really get an interpretation of the quarantine consistent with our players’ ability to travel in and not have to do a strict self-quarantine in a hotel room … we won’t be in a position to use any of the Canadian cities as a hub,” Daly said. “So we’re faced with having to find a solution to that. And hopefully, we can.”
The NHL said it will wait another three or four weeks before announcing its hub plans.
“We are having various discussions with various different departments in the Canadian government,” Daly added. “We don’t have a resolution there, but it’s an ongoing dialogue.”
Meanwhile, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney penned a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday where he encouraged the federal government to deem professional athletes and team staff as essential workers — meaning they would not be subject to a quarantine — similar to what U.S. officials announced late last week.
“Such an exemption from the Canadian government would be necessary for the (Oilers’) bid,” Kenney wrote. “The Government of Alberta believes there are effective strategies in place to mitigate any risk to our province if such an exemption was granted.”
A spokesman for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the Toronto Maple Leafs, previously declined to comment their bid, but Canada’s biggest city has all the amenities the league would require, although Ontario’s infection numbers are considerably higher than Alberta and B.C.
Leafs president Brendan Shanahan was asked about Toronto’s chances on Wednesday.
“The National Hockey League will choose a city in which it is not just safe for the NHL players, but also a safe environment for the people in that community that are hosting this tournament,” he said on a conference call. “We think we put together a pretty comprehensive program that would involve that kind of safety, but those are decisions that the NHL will make.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 27, 2020.