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What you need to know about COVID-19: October 20, 2020
It’ll be a Stanley Cup Final involving the two most southern cities in history and held in the most northern location in the NHL.
And Bob Nicholson, the man who played a huge role in it happening here, is headed home to spend time in quarantine after just winning the right to hold the International Ice Hockey Federation world junior championships here also in a bubble.
Thursday night was Game 75 in the Edmonton Hub City bubble. So a seven-game Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars that begins Saturday would make it 82 games — a full home-and-away regular-season schedule.
You’d think that would be enough coronavirus behind-closed-doors, no-fans-in-the-stands hockey to last a lifetime. But Edmonton organizers, now charged with producing a 10-team Hub City world juniors in Edmonton Dec. 26-Jan. 5, revealing a plethora of fresh details Friday, say bring it on.
They may be exhausted, but adding a world junior do-over of the NHL’s return-to-play Stanley Cup extravaganza in addition to a full-arena Edmonton-Red Deer edition in 2022 has them pumped and ready to jump back in and do it again.
Nicholson, the Oilers CEO and vice-chairman who doubles as IIHF vice-president, will jump back on a plane this weekend and return to be quarantined, unable to join NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, deputy commissioner Bill Daley and other officials in a private box after having headed the Edmonton effort to get the once-in-a-lifetime Stanley Cup event here.
“I have to quarantine for 14 days, so I’ve decided to do it in front of a TV in my summer place in Penticton” Nicholson said. “I’m OK with that. I’m heading home very excited for what we’ve done for hockey, the NHL, the IIHF, Hockey Canada and all those junior players who would have missed out on a chance to play in a world junior. This is just huge, huge, huge for Edmonton.
“And I’ve decided that, you know what? If the Stanley Cup is going to be presented in Edmonton, I don’t really want to be there anyway unless it’s presented to the Oilers,” he told me on the phone Friday from Europe.
Two of Nicholson’s Oilers Entertainment Group associates, Stu Ballantyne and Tim Shipton did much of the heavy lifting in terms of obtaining and delivering the start-to-finish Hub City hosting, say their team may look as out of gas as the Lightning looked at times in the last couple games of the Eastern Conference Final. But they’re as pumped to proceed to the world juniors as they were to start the unique 24-team NHL tournament.
“Everybody has been kind of buoyed at the office since the announcement,” said Ballantyne, senior v-p of operations. “They’re all highly experienced, and now even more so. It’s what we do for a living. We do events but this was definitely a different one in how we had to build it and how we had to secure it.
“There is a very decent break between now and then, so we’ll recharge and it’s nice to know we have something else on the horizon,” he said of the building that doesn’t have a single booking between now and then.
By the time you read this, they’ll likely have asked the NHL if they wouldn’t mind leaving up the special staging design for them to borrow and adapt for the world juniors.
“We will certainly talk to the NHL before the NHL playoffs are wrapped up about anything that may help our planning efforts for the world juniors,” said Shipton, senior v-p of communications.
A lot of details have been discovered by your correspondent in the 24 hours since the announcement, including plans to get the teams to town likely about 10 days before normal to quarantine and play a pair of pre-tournament games in Rogers Place prior to Christmas. The preliminary plan is to play four games a day with no overtime involved in Rogers Place during the tournament.
Three charter planes will bring the European teams to town with the Americans planning to drive up from the border. All will test players in camp, upon departure, upon arrival and daily while they are here.
With 30 people involved per team and double occupancy in rooms, it is believed the entire tournament could be housed next door in the J.W. Marriott and with all practices at the Community Arena attached to Rogers Place, it is believed that the teams would be in a very compact bubble with no reason to leave.
With all other junior-level tournaments cancelled by the IIHF, there will be no need to hold relegation round games. The same 10 nations will return to the 2022 edition in Edmonton and Red Deer in front of fans as originally scheduled for 2021.
“I think we’re all excited about this because it is undeniably a major coup for Edmonton to have both the Stanley Cup and the world juniors in these bubble formats here. There’s no other jurisdiction on the planet that can boast that,” said Shipton.
Ballantyne said he’s still pinching himself about now having back-to-back world juniors here.
“I was general manager of the 2006 world juniors in B.C. and it’s one of the all-time favourite events in my career. To have two world juniors here in a row is amazing.”
On Twitter: @byterryjones
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