The NHL is no longer considering Vancouver as a hub city to help finish the season, the Vancouver Canucks have now confirmed.
“From the beginning, our goal was to help the NHL get hockey back on the ice if we could. Although Vancouver won’t be a hub city, we are still excited to see hockey start up again,” Canucks Sports Entertainment COO Trent Carroll confirmed in a statement Thursday afternoon.
According to sources, health officials in B.C. had been concerned about what would happen if someone within a team quarantine ended up testing positive for COVID-19.
On Thursday, B.C. provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry said if there were to be a positive case that arose, they would investigate and determine if anyone else became ill.
“It might mean suspension of part of a series for a period of time until that could be done,” Henry said.
Vancouver had been considered a frontrunner to host 12 NHL teams in an attempt to award the Stanley Cup, after the league paused the regular season on March 12 because of the pandemic, with 189 games remaining.
Henry had previously signed off on Vancouver as a host, provided that “a very strict modified team quarantine” was followed.
“Vancouver, for anyone who has been paying attention to this, is the best possible place for them to come because we enforce public health rules thoroughly and completely,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said.
“This is the reason to come. I love the NHL. I love the NHL coming here. But I am also the Minister of Health. And the players and the fans and the people working at the arenas and those living in British Columbia expect the rules to apply to everybody.”
This meant that any players, coaches or staff coming from outside the country would have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in B.C., but could quarantine as a group instead of individually.
The league has moved on to Edmonton and Toronto as options, depending on virus transmission patterns.
The Vancouver Canucks are still in the playoffs, taking on the Minnesota Wild in the first round.
B.C. Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Beare says she is disappointed that Vancouver was not chosen as a NHL playoffs hub city but her government was clear that the priority has always been the health and safety of British Columbians.
“Our hard work in flattening the curve against COVID-19 is what made Vancouver a strong candidate. We are proud of the progress B.C. has made, and we have been clear that we will not bend our rules and risk this progress,” Beare said.
“Our collective efforts made B.C. a strong contender, and we will continue to consider all opportunities to showcase sport in B.C. Go, Canucks!”
The NHL is looking for two hub cities as part of its goal to play out the playoffs — one for the Eastern Conference and one for the Western Conference.
There were initially 10 finalists — including seven in the U.S. — announced by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
South of the border, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis/St. Paul are also being looked at, and Las Vegas is considered a favourite.
Pittsburgh and Columbus were on the original short list but say they’ve been eliminated. The Penguins submitted what the club called an “aggressive” bid to be a hub city.
The Penguins announced Tuesday they weren’t selected, joining the Columbus Blue Jackets — who were informed Monday the city in Ohio will not be one of the hub cities.
The Stanley Cup Final or “final four” would likely be in one of the two hub cities.
— With files from The Associated Press