B.C. could host all remaining NHL games, premier says

The remaining games in the NHL season could be played in B.C.

That’s according to Premier John Horgan, who spoke to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman over the phone on Tuesday about the province hosting games to help finish the 2019-20 year.

“We’ve heard from others around the league that have other ideas about perhaps having all of the games played in B.C.,” Horgan said.

“We have WHL rinks in Victoria, in Kamloops, in Kelowna, in Prince George. The Kootenays — Cranbrook — has an outstanding facility as well. We have hotel space. The sky’s really the limit.”

Vancouver has been floated as an ideal “hub city” where hockey teams could be housed and play games to limit travel and help finish the season.

But the idea of all of the remaining league games being played in B.C. has not been mentioned publicly before.

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“Mr. Bettman and his team recognize that B.C. 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,” Horgan said.

He acknowledged public health requirements would still be in effect, such as a 14-day isolation period, and that provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry would need to give approval based on the number of cases that are confirmed as economy reopens.

The province has been working with the Vancouver Canucks to coordinate the use of Rogers Arena and potentially other arenas in the Lower Mainland and around B.C.

The league is looking for cities with appropriate facilities, enough hotel space, and a good track record dealing with COVID-19.

B.C. reported just seven new cases of the virus on Tuesday, and 16 on Wednesday.

Other issues the NHL and its players association need to work out before returning to the ice include the number of spectators and protective gear.

Concerns have been raised about the return of hockey games bringing hundreds of people into a community and increasing the risk of spreading the virus.

Health Minister Adrian Dix has said the league won’t receive special treatment.

“As in every other case, as in every other industry, we have to assess real plans and work together to ensure that everybody is safe,” Dix said Tuesday.

“That applies to the NHL as it applies to every single other organization.”

Both the premier and provincial health officer have mentioned hockey players having to wear full face shields.

Currently, NHL players may choose to wear a visor or not, and only players recovering from injuries are required to wear a face shield.

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