VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks say the team is officially out of the running to act as a hub city as the NHL considers where to hold its playoffs.
Canucks Sports and Entertainment, the company that operates the hockey franchise, thanked B.C. health officials for their support during the bid to host the NHL’s summer Stanley Cup tournament.
The team says it will now look forward to welcoming its players back for a training camp at Rogers Arena in the city.
“From the beginning our goal was to help the NHL get hockey back on the ice if we could,” said chief operating officer Trent Carroll in a statement. “Although Vancouver won’t be a hub city, we are still exited to see hockey start up again.”
Premier John Horgan said public health guidelines are paramount during the pandemic.
“I’m disappointed the NHL playoffs won’t be coming to Vancouver, but we will not bend the rules on public health guidelines and risk the progress we’ve made,” he said in a statement on Twitter.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry echoed those sentiments at a news conference before the team made its announcement, saying public health was her main focus.
“I’ve not had direct conversations with the NHL,” she said. “What we provided was our advice and basically the fact that we would take the health of our players and the health of our province as the primary concern in terms of having the NHL play in Vancouver.”
Under B.C.’s plan, a team would have stayed in one hotel and travelled together to Rogers Arena for games using private transportation. Each team would also be responsible for any COVID-19 testing and agree not to interact with the public during a 14-day isolation period.
Horgan previously expressed hope that B.C.’s plan would give Vancouver an economic boost.
The announcement comes after Health Minister Adrian Dix was questioned earlier Thursday on whether the province’s approach to preventing the spread of COVID-19 would lead to Vancouver losing out on the possibility of being a hub city.
Dix told a news conference that B.C.’s public health rules were also a reason for the NHL to make Vancouver a hub city.
“But frankly, if you’re talking about the health of the players, if you’re talking about the health of society, you’re talking about public health measures, you’re talking about an outstanding leader on public health … this is the place to come.”
Henry said health officials told the NHL contingency plans would have to be in place if a player or team official tested positive for COVID-19. The contingency plan could have involved temporarily suspending a playoff series, she added.
The NHL is picking two cities for teams to resume hockey. The league announced earlier that Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dallas, Minneapolis, Chicago, Columbus and Pittsburgh were all in the running as hub cities.
— With files from Dirk Meissner in Victoria.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2020.
Nick Wells, The Canadian Press