Edmonton hopes for NHL hub-city benefits, welcomes Western Conference playoffs

Edmonton hopes for NHL hub-city benefits, welcomes Western Conference playoffs

EDMONTON — Across the street from Rogers Place, a pub patio was prepped with picnic tables and television screens slung above them Friday.

On the eve of the 2020 NHL playoffs, numerous downtown Edmonton eateries had outdoor spaces ready for whatever being an NHL hub city could bring them.

What kind of buzz and business a dozen Western Conference teams cloistered in town could generate was yet to be known, but they wanted to be ready.

“It has to stimulate the economy somehow,” said Edmontonian Khaleed Valani. “Honestly, I’m just glad to have hockey back.”

A corridor of blue netting slashed through the downtown core and closed off a street south of the arena.

Six of the teams staying at one of the two designated hotels use it for shielded passage to Rogers Place.

The players’ recreation area in the lee of the other hotel and Rogers Place is also walled off by blue netting.

You can hear music, see basketballs hitting backboards and silhouettes of players sitting at tables, but you wouldn’t be able to point out Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid eating ice cream.

Edmonton has been a notoriously tough sell to the NHL’s free agents in the past, but Valani believes players from other teams will get a more favourable impression of the city this summer that could pay off for the Oilers down the road.

“All the teams here, they’re going to see the great city, they’re going to see the great weather,” he said.

“Playing with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl I think a lot of players are going to come and they’re going to want to be a part of Edmonton.”

There’s certainly pride in Alberta’s capital city that it, along with Toronto, was chosen from 10 candidate cities to host the NHL playoffs.

Edmonton’s low rates of COVID-19 infection relative to other NHL cities and a barely four-year-old arena with expansive back-of-house space ultimately earned the city an unprecedented hockey tournament.

“Edmonton was picked due to us being a lot safer than other cities and all the stuff that Albertans and Edmontonians have done to make this all happen,” Basil Hendsbee said.

He sees the tournament as one big TV tourism ad for his town.

“The more things they show the viewers at home what Edmonton has to offer, who knows?” Hendsbee said. “Maybe people will come after COVID is done and visit Edmonton and Alberta.”

How much can and will Edmontonians publicly celebrate their hub-city crown, given the constant messaging of social distancing and encouragement to stay home?

Games played in an empty arena and the teams walled off from the public, the citizenry won’t be a lot closer to the action than other Canadians watching at home on television.

Arriving from the south on the Queen Elizabeth II — known as the ‘QE2’ — the first indication of a major hockey event in the city is a four-metre-high, 340-kilogram Stanley Cup replica at the edge of a sports store parking lot.

Staff at United Sport and Cycle were unpacking not only Oilers gear, but jerseys, T-shirts and flags for all the participating teams Friday.

The store is banking on Edmontonians feeling free, or emboldened, to support more teams than just the Oilers with so many of the teams in town.

“We’ve actually talked to a couple people who said ’I need to plan because I need to wear my Oilers jersey at eleven o’clock and I need to wear my Avalanche jersey next,’” marketing manager Kelly Hodgson said.

“They’re preparing to be a hockey fan and not just an Oilers fan. We see Toronto fans coming in even though Toronto’s not playing here.”

Hodgson is confident the NHL’s plan to contain the virus and finish the 2019-20 season in Edmonton will work.

“We had to actually make a delivery into the bubble because they needed some sock tape from us for the players to wear,” he said.

“I’m the one that made the delivery and you could have got into Alcatraz easier than you could have got into that bubble.”

This report by the Canadian Press was first published July 31, 2020.

Follow @DLSpencer10

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

NHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares to swab a man at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal North, Sunday, May 10, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
COVID-19 case confirmed at two more Red Deer schools and RDC

Two members of the Red Deer College community and two additional Red… Continue reading

Many rural municipalities were concerned about a proposed reduction to their industrial revenues, but Alberta’s Municipal Affairs minister has come up with an alternative solution. (Photo contributed)
Province and rural municipalities agree on a plan to support Alberta’s energy industry

Creating new wells or pipelines would result in a three year ‘tax holiday’

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Premier Jason Kenney participated in a livestream on Oct. 17, 2020. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
UCP members pass resolution at AGM calling for privately funded health care option

EDMONTON — Members of Alberta’s governing United Conservative Party have narrowly endorsed… Continue reading

“We weren’t sure what to expect with just doing the 50/50. We have been positively surprised with sales so far,” says Craig Fleming, co-chair of the Red Deer Kinsmen Club’s raffle. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Non-profits put their money on 50/50 draws

COVID impacts fundraising events

Student taking a math test. (Pixabay photo)
David Marsden: Students need more testing, not less

Testing has been central to Alberta’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s… Continue reading

Executive Director of Agape Kate Halas (left) receives $1000 from Sgt. Eric Christensen (right) on behalf of Agape. Photo/ Shaela Dansereau.
Former Wetaskiwin Peace Officer wins provincial award; gives back to Wetaskiwin community

Eric Christensen has won the Alberta Association of Community Peace Officers Award of Excellence.

Email editor@federalwaymirror.com
It’s a mistake to meddle with dispatching ambulances

As per usual UCP tactics, on Friday afternoon, our “esteemed” minister of… Continue reading

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Canadian couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Employee Sophia Lovink shows off a bag of merchandise in Toronto on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Canada gets C-average grade on 2nd year of cannabis legalization

Cannabis Council of Canada releases report card on federal government and legalization

Los Angeles Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann (33) stops a shot from Vancouver Whitecaps’s Lucas Cavallini during the second half of an MLS soccer match, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Koreniuk’s goal helps Galaxy beat Whitecaps, snap skid

Vancouver has lost five of its last seven games

In this file photo, Mike Weir, of Canada, hits out of the bunker on hole one during the 2017 Canadian Open at the Glen Abbey golf club, in Oakville, Ont., on Friday, July 28, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Weir settles for second as Mickelson wins to go 2 for 2 on senior tour

PGA Tour Champions’ stop at The Country Club of Virginia

Most Read