Premier Jason Kenney tweeted out a video showcasing Alberta’s Rocky Mountains on Monday in an effort to promote Edmonton as an ideal location as a potential NHL hub city should the hockey league resume play this season.
“It’s the obvious choice to bring the @NHL to #Edmonton,” Kenney wrote in a tweet that included a 1:03-minute video that comes across as a promotional vehicle for Alberta’s mountain attractions.
“We look forward to welcoming the league and players here to Alberta to take in the beautiful province we have to offer.”
The first four seconds of the video shows the skyline of Alberta’s capital, which the Alberta government, the Oilers Entertainment Group and the City of Edmonton is pushing to be one of two hubs for NHL playoff games, should play resume amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The video, which Kenney’s office said was put together by Travel Alberta, was quickly lampooned by some Twitter users for having so little of Edmonton in the video.
“The players can run the stairs in the river valley for training!” tweeted a user with the handle @JDEye, attaching a photo of Machu Picchu in Peru while referencing a popular Edmonton activity for local fitness enthusiasts.
Another Twitter user with the handle @iconicec tweeted photos of majestic mountain scenery with captions like “scenic drive on the Anthony Henday (Edmonton’s ring road).”
Matt Wolf, Kenney’s executive director of issues management, took to Twitter to better explain to people why Edmonton is barely featured in a video aimed at bringing the world’s premier hockey league to the city.
“For those unable to figure out: Should Edmonton be chosen as a playoff hub city, players’ *and their families* will be looking to do other things to keep busy,” Wolf tweeted. “Yes, the Government is showcasing all our province has to offer. #ableg”
When asked for comment about why Edmonton played such a small role in a video aimed at promoting the city, the premier’s deputy director of communications said showing everything the province has to offer makes sense as part of a pitch to sell the NHL on the “overall appeal” of Edmonton as a potential hub city.
“Given that playoffs could last as long as two months, and players won’t be able to freely return home for the duration, it’s anticipated that many players’ families will come with to live out of the hub cities,” Christine Myatt wrote in an email.
“It is our expectation that players’ families, after completing the required 14-day quarantine, will want to explore Alberta’s many attractions — including those outside Edmonton.”
Colin Babiuk, a professor of media relations at MacEwan University, believes the message the video was trying to convey may have gotten lost.
“When we talk about welcoming the players to Edmonton and then showing the Rockies and everything you can do if you’re family of the players, that message didn’t get through at all,” he said. “We’re talking about inviting the NHL here to Edmonton and then the video shows locations that, at a bare minimum, are four hours away.
“It’s kind of like a comedian telling jokes. If you have to explain the punchline, you’ve lost the show at that point.”
Tim Shipton, senior vice-president of communications with OEG, acknowledged that based on the initial response on Twitter, “maybe the intent of the video has been misconstrued on social media.”
“We’ve worked closely with both governments (City of Edmonton and government of Alberta) and their tourism agencies,” he told Global News.
“This piece specifically was produced after a meeting we had with tourism operators across the province — Travel Alberta, Edmonton Tourism and others — in order to talk about some opportunities for travel that exist outside the city of Edmonton.”
Shipton said the tourism aspect of the Edmonton hub bid is a small part of an extensive campaign. He said it is meant to address the possibility that players’ families could eventually be allowed into the province at some point in the playoffs and may want to explore parts of the province outside of Edmonton.
“We wanted to say , ‘We’re thinking about your families,'” he said.
Tom McMillan, a spokesperson for Alberta Health, told The Canadian Press that the players’ families won’t be exempt from medical checks and follow-ups that the province currently has in place for all international travellers.
“Any families of NHL players visiting Alberta would have to present a self-isolation plan and self-isolate for 14 days, just like any other traveller entering the province from outside of the country,” McMillan said in a statement.
“Families of NHL players could not travel within the province until this mandatory self-isolation was complete.”
At a news conference on Tuesday, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health elaborated on that point, saying “if the family members who come with players are a part of that particular NHL cohort, then they would have to stay within that bubble.”
“If they were to leave, then the expectation would be that they would not go back inside that particular bubble until after play was complete,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said. However, she pointed out that there are two stages of quarantine for NHL players, staff and their families should Edmonton become a hub city: mandatory two-week isolation if they are arriving in Canada from another country and staying within the NHL’s bubble in the hub.
“That second part of the quarantine is a quarantine that would protect the players, not necessarily protecting the public,” Hinshaw said, noting that would be more up to the NHL in terms of policy.
“Whether or not the family members are going to be a part of that NHL cohort along with the players, that would be a decision that would be made by the NHL with respect to risk tolerance essentially.”
Shipton pointed out that if players’ families are eventually allowed into Alberta should Edmonton become a hub city, as teams get knocked out of the playoffs, players and their families may choose to stay in Alberta for some time after, which “creates a tremendous opportunity” for the province’s tourism sector.
He also said Edmonton Tourism has been consulted during the bid process to ensure Edmonton’s attractions are also highlighted.
In an email to Global News, Edmonton Tourism said Alberta’s capital “would be an amazing host city for the NHL playoffs.”
“ serves up the perfect blend of big city vibes and exhilarating outdoor adventure,” the email said. “Edmontonians and visitors alike get to experience our family-friendly activities, exploding culinary scene, world-class arts and culture venues, outdoor activities and our amazing river valley.
“We know many people are working hard to bring the NHL playoffs to our city, and along with that comes the additional adventures outside of Edmonton.
“We all need to Explore Edmonton and Travel Alberta.”
“But of course you have to remember that from a player’s perspective, the No. 1 thing that’s most important is the quarantine zone,” Shipton said, noting the key criteria there is health protocols in place and some logistical issues.
Edmonton is one of three Canadian cities vying to become one of the NHL’s two potential hub cities. The other Canadian cities bidding are Toronto and Vancouver. Several American cities are also vying to be a hub.
If the NHL’s plan — to play a 24-team playoff for the Stanley Cup in two different cities this summer — comes to fruition, the first puck to drop at a real game would still be some time away. The league is currently aiming for July 10 as a start date for teams’ training camps.
Just last week, the federal government approved the “cohort quarantine” proposal put forth by the NHL for players entering Canada should the country have a city selected as a hub.
The plan would keep players away from the general public so that the NHL can bypass the 14-day quarantine that is normally requred for anyone entering Canada amid the ongoing pandemic.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said NHL players would be required to undergo regular coronavirus testing and that teams would be expected to closely follow advice and orders from local health officials in a Canadian hub city.
On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Lightning closed their team’s facilities after three players and some staff tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The development unfolded about two weeks after NHL players were allowed to return to their facilities for voluntary on-and off-ice workouts. Players were allowed to skate in groups of up to six at a time.
–With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press
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