As the Canadian women’s hockey team takes to the ice in Halifax for their training camp this week, there is renewed optimism about a “sense of normalcy” a re-scheduled world championship could bring.
The IIHF announced Thursday it has tentatively booked its Women’s World Championship in Halifax and Truro, N.S. for May 6-16.
The 2020 tournament was postponed on March 7, 2020 — about three weeks before it was slated to begin.
At the time, mounting concerns over the new coronavirus, which days later would be declared a global pandemic, were starting to take hold.
“I think that was a point where many people in Halifax and Canada -– that tournament being cancelled -– where (COVID-19) became real,” said Halifax councillor Waye Mason.
“And I think it will be a real triumph to restage it and do it successfully.”
Organizers had originally been eyeing a rescheduled April 2021 date for the 10-team tournament, but the federation opted to push it to May. They note final approvals have not yet been received from provincial and federal health authorities, nor has there been any exemptions to the federal quarantine rules.
“Hockey Canada and the Host Organizing Committee continue to work with government officials and medical experts in the Province of Nova Scotia, as well as the Canadian government, to develop and build a medical plan that will ensure the safety of all Canadians and the participating players, coaches, and staff,” the federation states in a news release.
The province did approve the Canadian training camp this week because players and staff are in a ‘camp bubble’ and quarantining between the hotel and rink.
Boost to economy welcomed, no matter how much
Paul MacKinnon, CEO of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, says its members rely strongly on tourism and have struggled particularly hard during the pandemic. He says if the tournament is held — regardless of how many restrictions there are — the economic benefits will be happily welcomed.
A staff report to Halifax council at the time of their bid expected 82,000 people would be attending the games. It was also estimated the event would have a budget of $3.5 million, with the largest expenses in meals and accommodations.
Those numbers are highly unlikely now.
“Obviously the impact for downtown will really depend on A, whether it happens and B, whether it happens with fans. Because typically these kinds of events, they’re hugely popular, they bring in people from all over the place,” MacKinnon said.
“No doubt we won’t have the kind of regular economic impact that we would have with it but you know what, anything happening in terms of an event in downtown Halifax is going to be good at whatever level they’re able to do it.”
He points out Nova Scotia, which has been able to maintain low COVID-19 case numbers throughout the pandemic, is “one of the safest” places to hold such an event.
“At this point, I guess it’s safe to say we’ll take anything,” MacKinnon said. “Any sign of optimism or even the smallest bit of business in downtown Halifax, we’d be happy to see that happen.”