John Horgan says his meeting yesterday (May 13) with Commissioner Gary Bettman brought to life a new possibility of closing out the current NHL season.
After extending the COVID-19 state of emergency for two more weeks, B.C.’s Premier says he and league representatives discussed a potential framework which could see Vancouver, or the province as a whole, serve as a hub for hockey's return.
Horgan believes B.C. has the capacity and the space to host multiple games in several cities, including those with WHL teams like Prince George.
“At this time, the CN Centre is flattered that Premier Horgan included Prince George in his comments regarding hosting NHL games across British Columbia,” said CN Centre Manager Glen Mikkelsen to PrinceGeorgeMatters.
“We look forward to being part of planning discussions if this idea has merit with the National Hockey League.”
Now, it's important to note that there have been no official talks between the city, the province or the league before, or since, Horgan’s comments.
The COVID-19 pandemic paused the 2019-20 NHL campaign over two months ago on March 12, while the Prince George Cougars' WHL season was cancelled six days later.
"Mr. Bettman and his team recognize that British Columbia has had a pretty positive response to COVID-19 in terms of flattening the curve," said Horgan and, as of yesterday (May 13), there are 57 positive COVID-19 cases in Northern Health and 2,376 across B.C.
"There are obstacles in the way. A 14-day isolation period would be required effective today. Where we are in two weeks, three weeks, four weeks would be up to Dr. Henry and how she feels we are doing and managing the curve as we restart the economy.
"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. If we can make it work I think it would be great for B.C. and great for the NHL."
The CN Centre hosted the Vancouver Canucks’ 2015 training camp, to which hundreds of hockey fans were able to watch the players gear up for that season.
However, if Prince George were to host the NHL this summer as it closes its season and playoffs, it’s likely that no fans would be able to attend as a result of physical distancing measures and player safety.
- with files from Wayne Moore, Castanet