While much of the talk surrounding British Columbia and the NHL is about Vancouver serving as a hub city for the Canucks and seven other Pacific Division teams, Premier John Horgan revealed an even bigger potential plan on Wednesday.
What if all 31 National Hockey League teams played the remainder of the season entirely in BC?
It may sound farfetched, but the premier said he’s heard from “others around the league” about such an idea.
Horgan, along with the Minister of Tourism, Arts, and Culture Lisa Beare, said he spoke with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and with Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly on Tuesday.
“We had a wide ranging discussion about our desire in British Columbia to support the NHL and the Vancouver Canucks, who have been initiating these discussions with government to see if we could put in place a framework where the NHL could use Vancouver as a hub city, in part of the many plans that are floating around out there,” said Horgan.
While the premier acknowledged the idea of a Pacific Division hub city, he also suggested games could be hosted all around the province.
“I believe we’re in a good place to host, that’s why I contacted the commissioner. The Canucks have been working very cooperatively with my minister. We’ve heard from others around the league that have other ideas about perhaps having all of the games played in British Columbia.
“We have WHL rinks in Victoria, in Kamloops, in Kelowna, in Prince George… Cranbrook has an outstanding facility as well. We have hotel space.
“The sky’s really the limit.”
In addition to the arenas listed by Horgan, there are suitable rinks with broadcast ability in the Lower Mainland, namely UBC’s Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre, the Pacific Coliseum, the Langley Events Centre, and the Abbotsford Centre.
“Mr. Bettman and his team recognize that British Columbia has had a pretty positive response to COVID-19 in terms of flattening the curve. Mr. Bettman also knows that this is a hockey-crazy province. We’d be happy to have hockey take place here so that we could see current games on our televisions.
“But there are obstacles, obviously, in the way. A 14-day isolation period would be required effective today. Where we are in two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, is up to Dr. Henry and how she feels we’re doing at managing the curve as we restart the economy. But Mr. Bettman was well aware of that, as are the NHL Players’ Association representatives, who are focused on ensuring players are safe, and of course the NHL’s concerned about players and the communities that they operate in.”
It’s an interesting idea, though it’s probably a long shot. Not every WHL city in the province has the same calibre of hotel that can be found in downtown Vancouver. There’s also not the same level of facilities in WHL rinks that you find in a modern NHL stadium like Rogers Arena.
The NHL would also likely be mindful about how its product would look on television in smaller arenas with worse lighting than a typical one of their rinks.
Whatever the case, one thing is certain: Horgan really likes hockey and he’s all in on the idea that BC could host NHL games.
“I wanted to let the commissioner know that British Columbia stands ready to assist in looking at a plan brought forward by the players and the NHL. And if we can make it work, I think that would be great for BC, and it would be great for the NHL.”