British Columbia

Inside Vancouver's NHL hub city bubble: no Roxy, no family, no autograph sessions

According to the proposal to make Vancouver an NHL hub city, teams will have to stay in the quarantine bubble beyond 14 days if they are still actively playing games.

Players will not be allowed to socialize outside the bubble and no family or fans will be allowed in

Vancouver Canucks banners on the exterior of Rogers Arena. Vancouver is one of 10 locations in the running to be chosen as a NHL hub city that will host 12 teams in a modified playoff play down sometime this summer. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Vancouver's chances of being named an NHL hub city received a big boost when Premier John Horgan announced B.C. would grant the league special COVID-19 quarantine protocols that would allow entire teams to be treated as a single bubble.

However the finer details around how that bubble might work should 12 NHL teams descend on the city are still a work in progress. 

According to Vancouver Canucks chief operating officer, a few things are certain: Active players won't be out socializing at the Roxy, spending time with family or signing autographs in public, even after the 14-day quarantine period has ended.

"As players and teams come in they'll be put into quarantine as a group, and that quarantine group will exist through the whole duration of their time in the hub city," said Trent Carroll.

The revised quarantine plan was put forward by the Canucks and approved by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Carroll believes it not only protects the public from potential COVID-19 transmission by players and team staff who are crossing borders, but it also safeguard players from picking up the coronavirus in public and bringing it into the bubble.

Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom makes a save during an NHL game in February. The league suspended play on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The NHL is expected to select two hub cities in the next few weeks — one to host 12 Western Conference teams and another to host 12 Eastern Conference teams in a modified play down for 16 playoff berths. 

Ten locations are in the running to become a hub city, including Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto.

Bubble integrity

Carroll says the team bubbles will be enforced, but did not give specifics.

He doesn't believe maintaining bubble integrity will be a problem because players will be made to understand what's at stake.

"There will be very limited tolerance for anyone who might think they've got special rules," he said.

"One thing that's been talked about at length with everybody is just the degree of difficulty and the commitment required to pull this off. I think people are prepared to make sacrifices that normally wouldn't be taken."

12 teams, 1 or 2 hotels

The proposal calls for games to be played at Rogers Arena with one or two other rinks designated as practice facilities. 

All 12 teams will stay at just one or two hotels, depending on logistics. 

Arena and hotel staff moving in and out of the bubble will be required to wear personal protective equipment, follow hygiene and distancing protocols, and will be subjected to COVID-19 testing, just like the players and team staff.

Carroll doesn't know if Vancouver's hub city plan will be released to the public, but does believe all parties involved — the Canucks, the city and province, and public health officials — have made a solid case for the NHL to consider.

"Once everybody sees just how well this plan has been put together, including the general public, I think people will have more confidence and a comfort level," he said. 

"Then we can just get on to playing hockey."

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