The premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, announced on Tuesday that the province would be entering a lockdown phase to try and combat the rapid spread of COVID-19. This decision will see businesses such as bars, restaurants, lounges, casinos, hockey arenas, and more shut down effective December 13th. (From ‘Kenney announces lockdown-style COVID-19 restrictions for Alberta,’ Calgary Herald, 12/09/20)
Despite the economic challenges the lockdown will surely bring to many across the prairie province, it’s devastating effects could possibly be felt by the Calgary Flames, too, and at a time where things need to operate smoothly in order for the NHL’s start date of Jan. 13th to come to fruition.
What Does The Lockdown Mean For Albertans?
Effective Dec. 13th, the new lockdown measures will come into place at 12:01 am. The restrictions also mean that gym facilities and personal service businesses, such as hair and beauty salons will also be asked to close their doors. Shopping malls and other outlet stores have been asked to operate at 15% of their fire code occupancy.
Another major hurdle that comes with this lockdown is the banning of all indoor and outdoor social gatherings. One thing premier Kenney announced just weeks ago, was that Alberta would not go back into a lockdown phase, because he felt locking down the province would cause a major backlash in terms of the mental health and well-being of residents.
How Does the Lockdown Impact the Flames?
With the latest restrictions completely wiping out the usage of all workout facilities and indoor arenas, as well as axing the ability to meet in a social setting, indoor or outdoor until at least Jan. 12th, 2021, the Calgary Flames may be in serious trouble unless the province can find a solution. The NHL has said that with a Jan. 13th, 2021 start date, training camp would need to start on New Year’s Day in order to play out a 56-game regular-season schedule.
Just the other day on social media it was Elias Lindholm, Jacob Markstrom, and Joakim Nordstrom who traveled from Sweden to Calgary in order to gear up for the start of the new season and begin their mandatory quarantine phase. With training camp now up in the air, I can’t imagine the frustration these players feel. More players from out of the country are expected to touch down in Calgary later this week.
Province’s Have Leeway
The Winnipeg Jets recently found themselves in an identical situation with the province of Manitoba, after its premier imposed strict health measures to kill the spread of COVID-19. Luckily for the Jets and their fans, Manitoba’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin gave the green light for the training camp, despite the province’s level red restrictions.
We also saw similar implications handed down in the United States, which saw the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers scrambling for a new temporary home to practice and play in for the remainder of the season due to the latest Santa Clara county restrictions. The last thing the NHL needs during the season is a team without proper facility access.
Flames Must Push for Exemption on Restrictions
With time running down on the scheduled start of training camp and the 2020-21 NHL campaign, it is imperative that the Flames push the Alberta government for a green light on access to their training camp and work out facilities. With so many NHL players and fans eager to see the start of the highly anticipated season, the NHL can’t bear another hurdle.
My fear is that the NHL could see more restrictions in other provinces and states in the weeks or even days to come, which will further slow the process of the puck drop. Alberta has seen 21,880 positive test results between November 24th and December 7th, and case-surges continue across North America.
The one major plus that the Flames have on their side, is the fact that the NHL has proven in the past that it can conduct a safe, legitimate environment for its players. The evidence of that goes back to the NHL’s “bubble playoff” setting, which was hosted in Alberta and Ontario.
The Flames should be able to host training camp on time, but it will take some negotiating with the Alberta government first, and nothing is promised. The Jets were able to resolve their issue with the Manitoba government, but Alberta is a different beast, and their COVID numbers are staggering. The Edmonton Oilers will also be impacted by the lockdown, so if the two teams can come together and receive approval for practicing as teams, hockey fans may get their wish after all- a season!