British Columbia could host remaining NHL games
As the NHL contemplates a potential return from its suspended season, one possibility that has been floated out there is the use of "hub cities" within one Canadian province to host teams and games.
The province of British Columbia has so far been successful in slowing the spread of COVID-19, and as a result it has become an inviting option to possibly host NHL games in a number of cities including Vancouver, home of the Canucks.
John Horgan, the Premier of British Columbia, has confirmed that he has had discussions with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman about the possibility.
Some main points from Gary Bettman’s call with #BC Premier John Horgan:— Randip Janda (@RandipJanda) May 13, 2020
-the #NHL welcomes B.C’s interest
-any decision on a return to play is a long way off
-health of players is most important to NHL. Testing of players/staff in host cities can’t take away from local need
B.C. boats a wealth of hockey arenas
The province not only has an NHL market within it already, but several smaller cities are home to major junior hockey arenas, which could feature desirable facilities for a temporary solution should the league, NHL Players Association, and the provincial government agree on any possible proposals.
A number of major junior facilities in B.C. would compare with some minor league baseball parks in the United States.
Restrictions need to be put in place
In order for any such idea to move ahead, provincial health authority Dr. Bonnie Henry has stressed that there would need to be restrictions in place, such as no fans in attendance, and physical distancing measures would have to be adhered to.
It’s likely testing for COVID-19 would have to be ramped up for NHL players, similar to what has been proposed for the return of soccer in Europe. Some major soccer leagues in Europe have outlined plans with rigorous testing and screening procedures in order to soon return to game action, while the Bundesliga in Germany re-starts its season on Saturday.
NHL players would also likely need to stay isolated while in these hub cities, as well as for up to two weeks if they’re allowed to travel into Canada from the U.S. or Europe.
Many questions remain
It’s an ambitious idea, although whether it actually becomes a reality is another story. Would the province have the capacity, or be willing to provide more testing for NHL players in order to re-start their season? Are communities outside of Vancouver willing to allow visitors to stay in their cities to help finish a hockey season, after non-essential travel between the Canadian and U.S. border was shut down earlier in the pandemic?
The idea raises more questions that what has been answered so far.
MLB and NBA are considering similar options
Major League Baseball is also reportedly looking at the possibility of re-starting its 2020 season with games in Arizona. Earlier this week, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced that major league sports can return to the state after May 15 provided they adhere to guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control.
The NBA, which also suspended its regular season around the same time as the NHL due to the pandemic, has reportedly explored the possibility of using Las Vegas as a hub city for its postseason. Another possibility, according to reports, is the NBA finishing its season at Disney World facilities.