VICTORIA — British Columbia’s premier says the province and its top doctor have approved a proposal for the NHL to make Vancouver a possible hockey hub city in Western Canada during the pandemic.
John Horgan said Wednesday he has written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to advance the initiative put together based on a modification of quarantine measures that would allow a team to remain together as a family or bubble.
A team would stay in one hotel and travel together to Rogers Arena for games using private transportation, be responsible for any COVID-19 testing and agree to not interact with the public during a 14-day isolation period, Horgan said.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and the Vancouver Canucks have come up with an agreement that protects players and the public, Horgan said.
"I think that Vancouver has a very compelling case to make and I support it wholly," Horgan said.
Edmonton and Toronto are the other two Canadian cities competing to become a hub for the league, with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney calling Edmonton "the safest place they could find on the continent" to finish off the season.
The NHL hasn’t yet named which two cities would host the games for the resumption of play, but possible locations include Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver.
The league unveiled a 24-team format that would likely see the Stanley Cup awarded in the fall, if play resumes.
Horgan said B.C.’s plan would allow for an economic boost to Vancouver from hotel rentals and other services.
British Columbia’s tourism sector is expected to make some gains this summer, he said, but added he has no illusions that domestic travel will fill the void left by American and international travellers who help local businesses thrive.
The province will focus on tourism as part of its recovery plan as an industry that’s integral to B.C.’s economy, Horgan said, adding people need a sense of safety and comfort before they travel.
"British Columbians need to get out, stretch their legs, go to other places but they’re not feeling particularly comfortable about that just yet," he said, noting the province is faring better than other parts of the country and COVID-19 cases have recently increased in neighbouring U.S. states due to large gatherings.
He said the province will remain vigilant in keeping the border closed until COVID-19 is better managed in Washington, Oregon and California.
"Saying no to U.S. tourists in Victoria is a very difficult pill to swallow, I absolutely understand that. But I think the public is behind me on this. We want to make sure that our reopening is safe and if that means we have to help businesses in other ways we’re absolutely prepared to do that."
The province has $1.5 billion in recovery funding that has not yet been allocated and the tourism sector could benefit from that on a case-by-case basis, Horgan said.
The sport fishing industry is among businesses that are suffering, with the province typically looking to the federal government for regulations on openings and closing time frames for chinook fishing and other regulations, Horgan said.
"If that’s not enough pressure for these businesses to try and operate, put a pandemic on top of that that restricts the ability of people to come from outside our borders (and) that’s a significant challenge."