British Columbia

Canucks and B.C.'s top doctor show interest in hosting NHL games in Vancouver

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says there are ways to safely host NHL games in Vancouver if the league goes ahead with resuming the season in a small number of hub cities.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says audience attendance is out of the question, but games could be broadcast

The National Hockey League stopped its regular season on March 12 with 189 games left to play. (Rich Lam/Getty Images)

The Canucks are hoping to score some hockey games for Vancouver if the NHL continues the 2019-20 season.

The team confirmed it has put forward a proposal for Vancouver to be a "hub city" for NHL teams to play in during the COVID-19 pandemic if that's the approach the NHL decides to pursue.

"We would certainly have a strong interest in hosting games in Vancouver … provided the plan is in accordance with guidelines set by health authorities and the provincial government," wrote Canucks chief operating officer Trent Carroll in an email.

It's an idea supported by Premier John Horgan as well. He said he has written to the NHL and the players' union to offer B.C. as a venue.

"Assuming that the games would be played without audiences, but instead would be played for television," Horgan said at a Wednesday briefing.

The NHL, which was forced to pause its schedule March 12 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, has been looking at plans to centralize groups of teams in low-risk hubs in hopes of resuming the 2019-20 campaign this summer.

 There were 189 games left in the regular season when the NHL halted play.

Signage on a door informs the public and arena staff that NHL and National Lacrosse League games at Rogers Arena are postponed until further notice due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. (Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports)

Dr. Henry, province show interest

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says there are ways to safely host NHL games in Vancouver if the league goes ahead with resuming the season in a small number of hub cities.

During her daily briefing on Monday, Henry described the concept as an "interesting idea," and pointed out that unlike many other sports, hockey players wear face masks, which could help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Shuttered ticket windows are seen at Rogers Arena in March. (Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports)

"I would not see there being an in-ice audience, for example, but we could broadcast the games, and there's ways that players could take precautions to ensure that there's physical distancing," she said.

Tourism Minister Lisa Beare said she has been in touch with the Canucks about the hub city proposal and pointed to Vancouver's "world class sports facilities and a strong record in hosting sport tournaments" as selling points.

"Like many British Columbians, I am excited at the prospect of an NHL restart here in our province," Beare said in an emailed statement.

"Our government would welcome a plan to host games in B.C. that adheres to the provincial health officer's directives and advice." 

Other Canadian locations in the mix?

Sports news website, The Athletic, reported earlier this week that between 11 and 14 teams submitted proposals to the NHL for their cities to serve as hubs.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he has been in touch with the Toronto Maple Leafs' parent company about Toronto serving as a host city.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he spoke to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about Alberta hosting games but said he has not seen a formal proposal.

The Canucks spokesperson said the team is not pursuing any public money to make Vancouver a hub city.

He added it's not clear when the NHL will make a decision on Vancouver as one of the hubs — or if the NHL is 100 per cent committed to the hub city approach.

With files from Bethany Lindsay and The Canadian Press