Welcome Matt: Horgan leaves big legacy on BC sports scene

Jun 30 2022, 5:23 pm

sekeres and price

I didn’t always agree with John Horgan’s policies or decisions but have much respect for the outgoing BC premier, who announced Monday he’s stepping down from the province’s top job.

We will never have a bigger lacrosse fan in that seat. And that he geeked out on his favourite sport was true to the political brand he crafted as BC’s dad.

Beyond lacrosse, Horgan and sports had an on-again, off-again relationship throughout his tenure.

You might remember Horgan and former finance minister Carole James initially said “no” to hosting 2026 World Cup games at BC Place, painted FIFA as a villain (which is easy to do) but also showed themselves oddly naive on what goes into hosting major international sports event. Either that or it was pure political theatre.

As we know, that decision was reversed and Vancouver will be hosting games, including the Canadian team, and may well still host the FIFA congress.

When he was campaigning in 2017, he told our old radio show that he would pursue naming rights for BC Place, a departure from the Christy Clark government that had argued there was branding value in keeping the “BC” in the facility’s name. And there were efforts to secure corporate sponsorship in the weeks prior to the pandemic, which needless to say changed government priorities.

Nobody saw the pandemic coming and nobody signs up to shepherd a constituency through such terrifying times, where even leaving your home is considered risk. Respect to Horgan for his public service in general, but especially for his leadership through COVID-19.

Speaking of pandemic matters, Horgan threw himself enthusiastically into the debate about Rogers Arena and Vancouver hosting the NHL’s bubble playoffs in 2020. He went so far as to welcome all NHL players and their families to BC, said they would be free to explore the bounty of our province.

It left us wondering if he was willing to make special accommodations for athletes pre-vaccine, but he was quickly rebuffed by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and the bubbles went to Edmonton and Toronto.

We later heard from Horgan’s staff that he was referencing an NHL Players’ Association proposal for the bubble postseason. Perhaps he was a little too keen to wrap himself in hockey and associate with NHL stars.

Lastly, Horgan may well pass judgment on sports one more time before he exits Victoria.

A First Nations-led bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics would reach its formal stage later this year and require the assorted government sign-offs. That could happen while he’s still in the premier’s chair.

Matthew SekeresMatthew Sekeres

+ Offside
+ Hockey
+ Olympics
+ Canucks
+ FIFA World Cup