Edmonton

Edmonton playoff bubble will be strictly enforced, says NHL, mayor

The bubble around Rogers Place and the NHL teams playing there will be difficult for anyone to permeate whether going in or out, the NHL said Friday.

'If anybody wants to decide to try to get out of the bubble, the penalties are extremely severe,' says NHL

The bubble around Rogers Place during the playoffs will difficult to permeate, the NHL says. (David Bajer/CBC)

The bubble around Rogers Place and the NHL teams playing there will be difficult for anyone to permeate whether going in or out, the NHL said Friday.

"Believe me, we've been, like, really enforcing it," said Steve Mayer, chief content officer and hub city lead for the NHL, at a news conference. 

"That is the instruction. If you see something, you've got to go up there and get in some people's face. It is an acquired taste. You have to learn how to work in this protocol."

Mayer has been in Edmonton almost 10 days working with the Oilers to get Rogers Place and downtown Edmonton ready to host the NHL's return to play.

Edmonton is hosting the western conference teams, the final four and the Stanley Cup final, while Toronto will host eastern conference games. 

"We are really going to be strict," Mayer said.

"If anybody wants to decide to try to get out of the bubble, the penalties are extremely severe, and they're on the next planes home, and they're certainly not able to come back into the bubble.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said the NHL's focus is on health and safety as the competition sets to begin next month. 1:32

"And I right now think given the security protocol that we've put in place, that it's going to be very, very hard for someone to pull that off."

The purpose of the bubble is to keep the NHL players, team staff and support staff completely separate from the public to prevent COVID-19 from crossing between the two groups.

Fencing has been erected around the hotels being used by the players as well as the arena.

While some of the cordoned off streets and sidewalks raised issues initially, Mayor Don Iveson said the Oilers worked with the city to restore access for residents and workers by setting up checkpoints. 

Iveson said the bubble was similar to an Olympics or a World Cup event that comes with their own security provisions. These are heightened by even more strict requirements because of COVID-19.

The Oilers recognized that while the bubble must be maintained, people still have to circulate, go to work and get home, said Stu Ballantyne, senior vice president of operations with the Oilers Entertainment Group.

"We have to have a balance. It's not as open as it would normally be, but we also have a very strict scenario here that we want to get to the end of this tournament safely, and we'll do that and make sure we respect the businesses, the neighbours and the citizens of Edmonton."

Iveson said while what happens inside the bubble is the NHL's concern, what happens outside, such as fans clustering downtown to catch a glimpse of the players or celebrate wins, is the city's responsibility.

"This is the biggest risk here that we have to manage, is that people don't come and cluster at the fences and break down the physical distancing that has been so successful at keeping our infection numbers down," he said.

"We want people to come downtown, we want people to be able to enjoy the great food and beverage and hospitality scene, enjoy the … spaces in the river valley, but all while maintaining that distance and respecting the health and safety of everyone in our city including folks within the NHL bubble."

Public health guidelines will be strictly enforced within the fan zone, Iveson said.

"We all want to hug each other after a great power-play goal but you know, you've got to keep that in your cohort."

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