'A tremendous pitch': Alberta and Edmonton working with Oilers to bring NHL playoffs to Rogers Place
EDMONTON -- The City of Edmonton and the Alberta government are working with the Edmonton Oilers to resume the NHL season at Rogers Place.
TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun is reporting the NHL and its players' association are working on a proposal centred on a 24-team playoff, after the season was suspended in March when the COVID-19 pandemic began to worsen in North America.
The playoffs, TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger reports, would be played in two NHL arenas with 12 teams per city.
Premier Jason Kenney says he's "very keen" on bringing the playoffs to Edmonton, which, with 49 active cases and high per capita testing, is "the safest place they could find in the continent … to finish off the season."
"We've got one of the best facilities, I would say the best facility, with the Rogers Place arena," Kenney said. "It is attached to a brand-new hotel, all of the services are right there in a safely-integrated protected zone, that would keep the players and staff insulated, and so we've got a very, very strong pitch to make."
HOW WOULD IT WORK?
Kenney sent a letter to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman arguing that not only would Edmonton be a good fit as a host city, but games resuming in Alberta's capital would play a "key part" in the province's economic relaunch.
He clarified his remarks in a Wednesday news conference announcing new measures, including heat screenings and a mandatory self-isolation plan, for international travellers returning to Alberta airports.
"They'll all have to go through the same screening protocols," Kenney said of NHL players and staff.
Kenney said the federal government has agreed "in principle" that the arena and connected hotels could be designated as a self-isolation zone where players would come into contact with one another, but not the outside world.
He added the NHL has not requested any funding from the provincial government to make the idea a reality.
"They would be getting obviously significant television revenues from broadcasting the playoffs. Funding just has not been a question there," he said.
EDMONTON MAYOR: 'I'M THRILLED'
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson echoed Kenney’s statements in a letter to Bettman that supported the return of hockey to Edmonton.
In the letter Iveson said, “We would be delighted to work with OEG (Oilers Entertainment Group) and the NHL to ensure Edmonton is a safe environment for professional hockey to resume.”
Iveson mentions the city is working with the OEG on an agreement that would allow NHL teams to practice and train in city facilities that are closed to the public during the pandemic.
“By bringing hockey back to a smaller market, the NHL would generate a significant boost to a great hockey city that has long laboured to create conditions to support the game,” Iveson added.
LeBrun said the NHL and the NHLPA hope to announce a resolution in seven to 10 days, and Kenney plans to have a meeting with Bettman later this week.
Also Tuesday, Canada and the United States announced the border would remain closed for non-essential travel until June 21, and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said those who come into the country will have to self-isolate for 14 days.
Tim Shipton, the senior vice president of communication with the Oilers Entertainment Group, told TSN's Ryan Rishaug the team is optimistic there will be a solution to the 14-day mandatory quarantine.
"We don't think it will ultimately be a barrier to Edmonton or another Canadian team being considered as a host city for the hub concept," Shipton said.
With files from TSN.ca