After BC Premier John Horgan said this week that his government is in favour of altering the mandatory 14-day quarantine rule for visiting NHL teams, the BC Liberals accused him of “introducing two sets of rules” for people in the wake of COVID-19.
“As a hockey fan, I’m all for bringing sports back to British Columbia as soon as safely possible, but creating special travel and health exemptions for hockey players and celebrities while there are still British Columbians who can’t be reunited with their families and loved ones, is simply unfair,” said Peter Milobar, MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson, in a statement.
He added that British Columbians “have made great sacrifices to flatten the curve and save lives” and said he questions why Horgan is “advocating for a special set of rules for athletes instead of fighting for all of us.”
Milobar’s comments come after Horgan announced in a press conference on Wednesday that the province is in favour of altering the mandatory 14-day quarantine rule for visiting NHL teams — a necessary step to keep Vancouver in the running to host NHL games this summer and into the fall.
The plan would need approval from the federal government and selection from the NHL, but it could result in 12 teams playing games at Rogers Arena when it restarts this summer. Vancouver is one of 10 cities the NHL is considering to host games, with a decision on two hub cities likely to be made within the next two weeks.
“The Vancouver Canucks’ proposal for an NHL hub city has been approved by the public health officer Dr. Henry and our government,” said Horgan. “As a result, I’ve written to the prime minister, advising him that Vancouver and British Columbia would welcome the NHL, as per the plan that was put together by the Vancouver Canucks, the NHL, and of course public health officials.”
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The BC government wants to treat NHL teams like their own “bubble,” with the idea that players and staff wouldn’t come into contact with the public during their first 14 days in the country. Teams are expected to stay at the same hotel, with the JW Marriott at the Parq Casino a likely candidate given its proximity to Rogers Arena.
During her daily update on Thursday, BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry stressed that while she believes bringing hockey back to BC “would be a very good thing,” there would be “no exceptions to the rules or the public health guidelines that are in effect in BC.”
She added, “In no way will we compromise all the work that we have done and the health of British Columbians, the NHL, or any other group.”
She also maintained that despite the appearance of two sets of rules, overall standards aren’t being compromised.
The NHL would be taking “extreme measures,” with every team having their players and staff tested frequently, likely including prior to arrival, with tests sourced and paid for by the league. They’ll arrive to the hub city in a private plane and stay in a hotel closed off to the rest of the public.
“I have reviewed that plan, and it exceeds the requirements that we have in place, even today. And it meets our criteria for protecting the community, without compromise,” she said.
With files from Rob Williams