Living under unprecedented circumstances, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of daily life from education, business, travel, and entertainment. As communities slowly phase in their reopening plans, entertainment is beginning to resume and sports are soon going to be back in full swing, albeit without crowds and with extreme health and safety precautions for all participants.
Over the last few months, major sports league officials have been virtually planning and organizing the logistics of a resumption of play. The NBA has decided to finish off the season and have the playoffs take place in a league hub in Disneyland, Orlando, Florida – which has come as a socially contested, but not exactly unexpected course of action. There has been political, economic, and social encouragement for the resumption of sports, so it was always likely for a plan of this sort to be the outcome.
After the NBA, the NHL had considered several hub cities where the post-season could be held in a relatively safe and logistically sound area. Las Vegas, Chicago, and Vancouver were all among the considered cities to host the modified playoffs, but in the end, Edmonton and Toronto were awarded the unique chance to do so. The NHL’s decision on offering the venue to the two Canadian cities was largely influenced by Canada’s overall superior management of the health crisis in comparison to the United States. Additionally, Edmonton and Toronto have both been recognized for their optimal urban layout with several hotels surrounding the venues where games would be played.
On June 16th, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government is comfortable with the NHL postseason being organized in Canadian hubs so long as local and provincial authorities are also OK with the proposed plans. One sticking issue regarding the organization of the league’s postseason activities has been the question of whether or not respective team personnel would need to quarantine upon arrival in the cities. Despite Canada’s border restrictions and heavily enforced quarantine rules, all levels of government were able to collectively recognize the ‘incredibly detailed’ plan of the NHL, and were able to confidently allow for it to go forward.
The NHL personnel will not have to quarantine for 14 days when entering the country as the NHL’s plan includes daily tests for COVID-19 for all residents of the bubble campuses as well as all who have direct or indirect contact with them. Toronto Mayor, John Tory expressed strong confidence in the NHL’s enforcement of their rigid and highly thought-out plan. In a similar manner in Alberta’s capital, Edmonton, both Premier Jason Kenney and Mayor Don Iveson have voiced their support for having the responsibility to host part of the NHL’s postseason. Like Toronto, Edmonton has a desired venue in its downtown core with the Rogers Place arena which is attached to a new hotel. It’s very important for both the league and government authorities that the NHL hubs are able to avert any major health concerns as well as to properly manage and contain them if that unfortunate case was to arise.
At the outset of sports resumption being a realistic situation by late summer, it was still unclear whether or not the United States specifically would be able to provide a safe enough environment to host one of the venues. As it turned out, such health and safety targets could not be met to the satisfaction of the NHL and both venues were awarded to Canadian cities. This outcome really shines light on the differences in government coordination in Canada and the US. Although both nations are often likened as very similar, the fact remains that in times of crisis and in times that call for intergovernmental alignment, the US falls way behind.
Although hockey is not necessarily a global sport, the circumstances of the NHL’s decision highlights Canada as an extremely reliable and efficiently operating nation in comparison to the political, social, and economic volatility seen in other western democracies.