Hub Cities, the Virus and Backroom Politics
By Grant Ainsley | Tips | [comments] | Posted [date]
Will today be the day the NHL finally makes it official and announces Edmonton and Toronto will become the "hub cities" for the NHL playoffs? Are you excited, or do you even care since you can't go to the games anyway, or see the players up close?
The entire discussion has been a cloak and dagger mystery from day one, as the NHL says very little, but somehow inside sources keep us updated on latest developments. As this goes on, the Toronto Blue Jays are working quietly behind the scenes to pull off something even more controversial.
Some members of the media meanwhile think this will be a great opportunity for Edmonton and Toronto. I'm not so sure.
Hub Cities - A Good Thing?
For weeks I’ve been hearing and reading about the incredible benefits and “prestige” of Edmonton becoming a Hub City for the NHL playoffs. I've lived here all my life and this is such an Edmonton thing – always wanting to “get on the map.”
A radio talk show host and a couple of newspaper columnists in town have been making it sound like becoming a hub city will be like getting the Olympics. Mind you, one of those “journalists” works for the Edmonton Oilers and the others may as well too.
Yes, some desperately needed money will be brought into Edmonton and Toronto. The tourism industries have been ravaged by the virus. But with less than 1,000 people in both cities, this is really like two large, long conventions. But hey, what else do we have going on these days?
It’s interesting to note that the sports media types who were pushing the hardest for Edmonton to be named a hub city, are the same ones who desperately wanted the City of Edmonton to sign a one-sided arena deal with Oilers' owner Daryl Katz a few years ago. By the way, not only will Katz make money off renting Rogers Place, he also owns a piece of the JW Marriott across the street, which will serve as the main hotel for the teams. That’s how you become worth $3.4 billion.
My biggest issue all along has been the lack of transparency. There are so many questions related to the possible spread of the coronavirus that haven’t been answered. They start with, what are Alberta and Ontario health officials willing to allow that Dr. Bonnie Henry and BC wouldn’t? The NHL wanted to go to Vancouver, but Henry and others in BC told the league to take a hike. Why? Will people in Edmonton and Toronto be at a greater risk of contracting the virus, if that risk was too big for Henry to stomach?
To me, the bottom line of the hub city discussion is, if the money that will be brought into the city far outweighs the downside, which includes the risk of spreading the virus, then it’s a good thing.
I’m just not sure it is.
It seems for months we’ve been told to stay at home and now we’re allowing hockey players and their families to come to our city from all parts of the world without being forced to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Let's keep in mind, it's just been revealed that NHL teams are forbidden from naming players who have tested positive and teams do not have to disclose the names of players who break the rules by leaving the bubble.
That's hardly transparent, even though it's the health of people in Edmonton and Toronto they're playing with.
The Hidden Ball Trick
Baseball is another sport that seems to have made found a way to have made what should be public discussions very private.
As the Blue Jays open training camp in downtown Toronto, after somehow finding a way to get that approved, they’re working behind closed doors with politicians and health care officials to allow them to play home games in Toronto this season and enable teams to come across the border, regardless of how bad the pandemic is in the US. The Blue Jays arrived in Toronto last night after taking a flight from Florida.
When it was first suggested the Jays may play games at home, I found the idea preposterous, but then the team’s President Mark Shapiro told reporters he wanted to thank Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor John Tory for working behind the scenes to allow the Jays to hold their training camp in Toronto.
Behind the scenes. Once again there’s a total lack of transparency to the decisions being made. Trying to find out what’s being discussed is about as difficult as hitting a Bob Gibson fastball.
We’re talking about public health, a fundamental public issue. How MLB teams will be able to prevent players, coaches and other staff members from leaving the bubble, while in Toronto is of course never explained. What’s to prevent three or four baseball players, who have just spent two weeks in Florida and Texas, going out on the town in Toronto after a game and spreading the virus?
I find it terribly frustrating for politicians and health officials to tell us every day to stay home and take precautions, but yet they’re discussing ways to allow baseball players from the US into the country. At the same time, Canadians are going ballistic over a few Americans spending time in Banff and Lake Louise, instead of going straight to Alaska.
We have provinces in Canada not even allowing people from other provinces to enter, but yet we’re going to allow baseball players from the US in? In know the spin being put on this is “There will be strict health protocols” and “They will have to remain in the bubble”, but is that really the case? How?
Like so many other issues related to the virus the answer is “We don’t know", but we do know we're not getting the information we should.
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