Health care safety is a major focus of a joint bid released Tuesday by the Oilers Entertainment Group, the province and the city in an effort to have Edmonton play host to a dozen NHL teams at Rogers Place and the adjacent community arena.
Bid details were talked about publicly as the league and the players association work towards a return to the ice.
“We’ve got a very strong pitch to make,” Premier Jason Kenney told reporters Tuesday.
“We’ve got one of the best facilities, I would say the best facility, with the brand new Rogers Place arena.
“It is attached to a brand-new hotel, all of the services are right there. It can be safely-integrated in a protected zone,” Kenney said.
But it’s the response by Alberta Health to the COVID-19 pandemic that has the province, the city and OEG confident in its approach. The Edmonton zone has not confirmed a new case of the disease since Saturday.
The only change in the Edmonton numbers released by the ministry over the 24 hours between Victoria Day and Tuesday was a reduction of one in patients being treated in intensive care, as that number went from three to two.
“We’re down to (58) active cases in this population in Greater Edmonton of 1.2 million people, and a handful of people in hospital with hundreds of acute care beds that have been set aside for COVID patients, together with the highest per capita testing in North America, if not the world,” Kenney said.
“I think we are the safest place they could find in the continent.”
“We need to be able to satisfy the government that this can be done safely,” OEG vice president Tim Shipton said. “So we’ve worked with them in collaboration to develop those criteria, the Alberta system as it relates to… overall testing capacity.”
In a letter to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Mayor Don Iveson touted Alberta Health Services as a world leader in per-capita testing numbers.
“The City of Edmonton continues to work alongside the provincial government and its medical officers of health to take all precautions necessary to ensure that our city is safe for its residents as well as workers in any industry, including high-performing athletes and their support staff,” Iveson said in the letter.
The closed link between the rinks and the JW Mariottt hotel are also a key component of the bid, said Shipton. He pointed out that there are enough rooms for all 12 teams and their support staff in the immediate downtown area.
Unlimited access to city-owned practice rinks are also a significant part of the bid.
“In addition, the City of Edmonton is working closely with OEG on an agreement to use our high-quality civic recreational facilities, currently closed to Edmontonians during the pandemic, where NHL teams could practice and train safely while in Edmonton,” said Iveson’s letter.
“Our bid, we feel the economics and budget of the bid will cover our hosting,” Shipton said.
It’s believed as many as nine franchises are bidding to be one of two hub cities in the NHL relaunch.
The league and its players association is working towards a return to play agreement that is expected to see as many as 24 teams resume the season, however no final details are set, and no dates are agreed to.
It’s anticipated the season will resume in the fall, with the 2020-21 season delayed after the 2020 Stanley Cup is awarded, with a full season squeezed in after that.
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