It is not often that National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly do not get their way when it comes to negotiations with government authorities. In Canada, the NHL has traditionally been considered an institution that is deep in the Canadian psyche, and ever since the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix and the Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver in the 1990s, there has seemed to be a growing tendency on behalf of Canadian governments to negotiate with caution when it comes to the NHL’s wants, needs, and demands.
This is what made the British Columbia government’s decision this past week so extraordinary. The BC public health officials were not going to back down from their own individual principles when it came to public safety, and the health of British Columbians. One could argue that not coming to terms with the NHL regarding Vancouver being used as a hub city upon the NHL return was a bold move on behalf of British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix and British Columbia Health Officer Bonnie Henry. However, at the end of the day, their decision was completely understandable.
The bottom line is we are still in a pandemic. With numbers rising at a high level throughout the United States, especially in the sunbelt, there are questions at this time why the NBA and MLS are even considering proceeding in the state of Florida. This past weekend, ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale tweeted “I don’t get it as over 9 thousand in Florida today tested positive for COVID-19 yet tonight on Siesta Key people were not social distancing & very few masks. Ppl let’s get REAL & do not be selfish WEAR MASKS / WASH HANDS & SOCIAL DISTANCING r a MUST The numbers r not lying.”
I am not saying that by the NHL holding the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Arena in Vancouver in 2020 that British Columbia will end up like Florida. However, it is now time to praise Henry and Dix for their positions. Dix admitted that he loves the NHL, but questions how people would react if they gave the NHL special treatment.
As for Henry, she was concerned what would happen if there was a positive test. She believed there would need to be a pause in a particular series. The NHL agreed to put a player in isolation, but could not guarantee that a series would temporarily shut down.
As a result, the NHL has moved away from Vancouver, and is enhancing their dialogue, with two other Canadian provinces, Ontario and Alberta. Time is ticking for a decision to be made, but at the end of the day, health standards have already played a key factor in negotiations when it comes to finding suitable locations.