Following some very positive words from BC Premier John Horgan on the topic, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked about the province’s role as a potential host for NHL games this summer.
On Tuesday, Dr. Henry was asked about the potential strain it could put on the healthcare system, given it would mean an influx of hundreds of people from out of province. The “hub city” plan calls for eight teams (the Vancouver Canucks plus the seven other Pacific Division teams) to play each other at a centralized location.
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While this would mean an influx of money into the province, notably for nearby hotels and restaurants, the NHL would also need to test players frequently in an attempt to ensure safety.
While Dr. Henry said she thought it was a “really great idea” in theory, she didn’t mince words on if a “double standard” might exist.
“I’m not going to compromise safety for any organization, whether it’s the NHL or anything else. As much as I love hockey,” said Henry.
Questions surrounding potential scenarios are admittedly hard to answer. While BC is enjoying relative success at flattening the curve, and Horgan has plans to meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, there aren’t a lot of concrete plans yet.
But Dr. Henry did her best to answer hypotheticals anyway.
“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.”
And naturally, she wants to see more information.
“I also think that I would need to see a very detailed plan of what their expectations are or how they will meet our requirements. Right now there’s no changes that we are foreseeing in requirements of self-isolation for people that are coming into BC from outside the country, so that would need to be taken into account.
“The ability to monitor, to care for people, to make sure that testing is available, and it would be part of my criteria that it would not have any impact on our ability to test here in BC. Or for anybody in British Columbia to get the testing, the assessment, or the care that they need. So we do need to monitor it very carefully.
“I have not yet seen a proposal of those types of details, so I think it is very much in the theoretical phase right now. But I think we could look at the probabilities and the possibilities if and when they come forward with a proposal.”
Should Vancouver serve as a host for the NHL’s return this summer, it would likely include games at Rogers Arena beginning in July, with teams taking over nearby hotels. At least one additional practice rink would likely need to be made available, with UBC’s Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre or Scotia Barn (formerly Burnaby 8-Rinks) the top candidates.