BC will respond to NHL's plan "in the coming day or so": health minister

Dec 21 2020, 2:38 pm

BC has received the NHL’s plan, and now they’re going to take some time to make a decision.

That was the messaging from BC Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry Monday, in a conversation with Global BC’s Richard Zussman on Facebook Live.

On Sunday, the NHL revealed plans for a shortened 56-game season, beginning on January 13. The plan is to play games in home arenas, with all games being played between divisional opponents. The Vancouver Canucks will be part of the newly-formed all-Canadian North Division, meaning it will play 9-10 games against each of the other six teams from Canada.

The NHL still needs the provincial governments to sign off on their proposal, which calls for regular testing of players for COVID-19, but won’t include a strict bubble like the summer. Teams will reportedly restrict visiting teams to the hotel and rink though, while traveling in and out of cities on private planes.

But according to reports, BC has expressed the most concern of any of the provinces because of high case counts across the country during the second wave of the pandemic. TSN’s Ryan Rishaug stated on Saturday that the BC government was “unwilling” to allow teams to travel into the province for games.

“The NHL presented its plan over the weekend to everybody. Obviously, like we do everything, we’re going to look at that plan seriously and respond to it in the coming day or so,” said Dix, who spoke highly of the Canucks’ help with public health messaging during the pandemic as well as the NHL bubble last summer.

“Dr. Henry, our provincial health officers, our medical health officers, are extraordinarily busy right now. This is an intense time, the NHL has provided what they’re proposing to do. Now we’ll take a look at it and we’ll see.”

Dix denied being “frustrated” by the process with the NHL, but he was noticeably stern in his language.

“I think it’s reasonable, having received a plan over the weekend, that we reflect on that for more than a few hours,” he said.

Vancouver was the NHL’s first choice to be a hub city for games last summer, but in the end, the league went to Edmonton and Toronto because of BC’s stricter health regulations.

If the NHL can’t satisfy the requirements of the BC government this time around, the Canucks could be off to Edmonton again, or elsewhere in Canada, to find a new temporary home rink.

“We just received the plan in the last few days. We’re considering it. It’s not my only priority right now,” said Dr. Henry, who once again added that she is a hockey fan.

“There is of course that extra pressure, and I think some of the public messaging from the NHL gives the impression of pressure. We’re doing what we do with everything. We’re looking at the evidence, we’re looking at the plans, we’re having discussions about what the impacts of those will be.”

Henry added that BC isn’t the only province that has expressed concerns, and that she’s working together with her counterparts in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.

Training camp is less than two weeks away, scheduled to begin on January 3. The Canucks are expected to be allowed to hold camp at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.