British Columbia

Hockey night in Prince George, Kamloops or Kelowna?

B.C. Premier proposes NHL games in cities where the home teams usually battle for the Memorial Cup, not the Stanley Cup.

Premier's pitch for NHL games on WHL teams' home ice gets mixed reception

The CN Centre in Prince George, B.C., is home to the WHL's Prince George Cougars. It previously hosted the Vancouver Canucks for a 2015 training camp and can hold nearly 6,000 people. (Prince George Cougars)

A proposal to use hockey rinks across B.C. for National Hockey League games is scoring points in cities where the home teams usually battle for the Memorial Cup, not the Stanley Cup.

In a call with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday, B.C. Premier John Horgan floated the possibility of the league playing at rinks used by top-level junior league teams around the province.  

"We have WHL rinks in Victoria, in Kamloops, in Kelowna, in Prince George… Cranbrook has an outstanding facility as well," Horgan said in a news conference after the call. "We have hotel space, so the sky's really the limit."

The premier also proposed using Vancouver Canucks' home ice at Rogers Arena as a hub city for NHL games. 

B.C. Premier says hosting NHL games 'would be great' for province and league

2 years ago
Duration 2:12
B.C. Premier John Horgan told NHL commissioner Gary Bettman that he's willing to work with the league to have games played in the province. 2:12

The league sought proposals to complete the 189 games left in the 2019-2020 season in low-risk centres, using empty arenas. The NHL suspended the season on March 12 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sean Smith, the business operations and event supervisor for the City of Kamloops, was enthusiastic about the idea of offering the use of the city's 5,464-seat arena, which is home to the Kamloops Blazers. 

"There is no reason why the Sandman Centre wouldn't be a fantastic venue to host an NHL game with all the new improvements we've made to it," Smith said. 

'Wouldn't that be a thrill?'

Glen Mikkelsen, manager of Prince George's CN Centre, had no inquiries about using the arena for NHL games before Horgan's announcement Tuesday, but he was "tickled" by the thought. 

"Wouldn't that be a thrill?" he told CBC Prince George's Andrew Kurjata. 

The centre, which is home to the WHL's Prince George Cougars, previously welcomed Vancouver Canucks players for a training camp in 2015. NHL players also participated in a game at the CN Centre organized as a charity fundraiser. 

"In fact last year we had the new rink board system with the new glass and doors. So we certainly have the facilities to host that level of hockey," Mikkelsen said. 

The arena manager said it would be exciting to host a game even without any fans in the stands.

"You could set up a screen in a parking lot and people could come and park their cars and watch the game on a big screen and just be a couple of hundred meters away from where it's actually happening," he said.

"It would be so ironic. But you know, strange times," he said.

'Wishful thinking'

Larry Fisher, a Kelowna-based WHL scout and freelance hockey writer, said the notion of hosting NHL teams in the regional rinks is unrealistic.

Fisher said the league was looking for hub cities which could host up to eight teams at a time for tournaments. That number of players and their entourages could not be accommodated with the limited amenities, such as dressing room space, at the smaller arenas. 

"I hate to be the bearer of bad news," Fisher told Daybreak North guest host Wil Fundal. "But I can't see it happening. In all honesty I think it was wishful thinking by Premier John Horgan."

To hear the full interview with Larry Fisher, tap the link below: 

With files from Daybreak Kamloops and Daybreak North