EDMONTON, AB - On Tuesday, City of Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson expressed his support for the Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) bid to make Edmonton a host city for the resumption of the 2019-20 National Hockey League season.
Iveson wrote a letter to Commissioner Gary Bettman, endorsing the Oilers desire to become a hub city for the League, which was paused on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"OEG and the City of Edmonton are exploring a bid because we view Edmonton, with its colourful hockey history, as an ideal location to host the balance of the NHL's 2019-20 season," Iveson's letter read.
"In the North American context, Edmonton and its surrounding region have experienced low COVID-19 infection numbers and are taking prudent steps to begin a cautious and safe reopening."
Iveson wasn't the only politician to impart his promotion for Alberta's capital to become a neutral location, as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney also showed support.
"We've got one of the best facilities - I would say the best facility - with the Rogers Place arena," Kenney said.
"It is attached to a brand-new hotel, all of the services are right there in a safely-integrated protected zone, that would keep the players and staff insulated, and so we've got a very, very strong pitch to make."
Bettman said the NHL is currently looking at "eight or nine different places" as possible hub city sites that can accommodate "a dozen or so teams in one location," NHL.com columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika reported.
"We have been working very hard since we took the pause on March 12 to make sure that whatever the timing is, whatever the sequencing is, whatever physical ability we have in terms of locations to play, that we're in a position to execute any or all of those options," Bettman said during a digital keynote interview.
"There is still a great deal of uncertainty."
Bettman and the NHL have remained committed to exploring all options for completing the '19-20 NHL campaign.
"We'd like to award the Stanley Cup, the most treasured trophy and the most historic trophy in all of sports," he said. "And our fans are telling us overwhelmingly that's what they'd like us to do, because people have an emotional investment in this season already."
OEG Chairman and Edmonton Oilers Alternate Governor Bob Nicholson also offered a statement on the franchise's pitch:
"The NHL has been very clear on its priorities for selecting a hub city and first on that list is ensuring the safety of everyone involved, including the citizens of the host jurisdiction. By any measure, when it comes to safety, Edmonton is at the top of the list. We have very low COVID-19 numbers, we have world-leading testing, a world-class health care system and a government that has really been on top of the response.
"The other major piece of the bid is having facilities that can accommodate up to 12 teams. The is no better location to do this than Rogers Place and ICE District. We have two NHL sheets of ice and over a million square feet in Rogers Place. Regarding accommodations, we have the JW Marriott, which is attached to the arena, and adjacent hotels very close in the downtown core.
"We would be able to create a world-class, NHL-calibre quarantine space that is all connected with the amenities that would appeal to the NHL and NHLPA."