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The thing about being self-isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic is that it gives you a lot of time to think.
Here is what I’ve been thinking about so far, Vol. 1. No. 2:
• It’s time. As we reach what would have been the final weekend of the 2019-20 NHL regular season, whether the NHL declares it completely over or still holds out hope to have some form of Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s time to give the fans the three things the league can give them now: 1. The NHL Draft Lottery. 2. The NHL awards. 3. The NHL Entry Draft. All produced, of course, without gathering anybody together in person.
• It’s now 90 days to the start of the July 3-12 Calgary Stampede, the biggest sports event in Western Canada that has yet to announce postponement or cancellation. Rodeo and chuckwagon events are a major part of the Western calendar and are usually the biggest sports and social event of each community. The first big one (featuring both rodeo and chuckwagons) to watch will be the Grande Prairie Stompede on the June 1 long weekend. Tofield and Camrose rodeo events in April, Innisfail in May and High River in June have postponed, and Medicine Hat and Crowsnest Pass in April have rescheduled for September. Brooks and Airdrie in June have cancelled. Between today and the June 25-July 1 second-biggest event in the West, the Ponoka Stampede, 19 events are poised for postponement or cancellation. They’re not incidental.
• With the COVID-19 numbers still rising in Canada and sports at all levels getting further and further away from the day they return, it’s already apparent that sponsorship is going to drop dramatically, blue-collar sports fans will have significant reduced disposable income and corporate suite renters may disappear entirely. It’s going to be interesting to watch how creative sports teams at all levels can get to deal with it.
• It’s crickets on the Aug. 3-8 Hlinka-Gretzky eight-nation U-18 second Edmonton-Red Deer edition of the long-running event formerly held every summer in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Crickets other than Team USA announcing a pre-tournament game in Penhold. No rush on the 2021 Edmonton-Red Deer World Junior, but you’d think Hockey Canada would have selected and announced sites around the province for pre-tournament games for that by now. With so many postponements and cancellations, it wouldn’t hurt to provide something for a lot of the smaller centres that will be losing their rodeos and summer youth sport events to get excited about. Again, crickets.
• Lots of people are out of work. Costs of construction is way down. When we come out of this, it will be a time to build. Sports projects I recommend in Edmonton area:
– O’Kelly Lake in the middle of Hawrelak Park, complete with public beach and swimming. The current slough/pond in the park is good for skating in the winter and barely brought up to minimum standards for World Triathlon Series events. A study has been done. It’s not like building the Panama Canal. It would give Edmonton the full-meal deal with the unmatched river valley cycling and running portions of the World Triathlon Series Grand Final and world championships soon to be officially postponed to 2021.
– Two years ago, Edmonton played host to the most ballistic Grey Cup ever. When it was over, the Eskimos offered to provide more than half a million dollars toward putting a domed structure over Commonwealth Stadium so it might be used for many varieties of full field outdoor events in the winter months. Last time I checked, it was still in the in basket at City Hall. This one is a no-brainer.
– A soccer-specific stadium for FC Edmonton of the new Canadian Premier League. Use Sapputo Stadium in Montreal, now expanded from its original smaller version to play in Major League Soccer, as model. The City provides land and services and combines with owners Dave and Tom Fath for financing. The Fath brothers are in the paving business. They might provide the roads and parking lot.
– It’s about 20 years overdue for Sherwood Park to build a Camrose Encana Arena-calibre hockey facility. Strathcona County has exceptional, highly envied sports facilities including the brilliant Millennium Place but then there’s that embarrassing, totally inadequate, second-rate dump of an old hockey barn.
– Rebuild the City of Champions signs. The true meaning of them was not just the teams and individual athletes, but the champions in the community. So many are proving it with large and small acts of compassion right now, as they did so spectacularly during the tornado of 1987.
– Hey, I’m the sports guy. There are so many modest projects that could put people back to work. Such as building park benches for seniors and all sorts of family-friendly structures to bring more people into our spectacular river valley without taking away from the natural beauty of the longest urban linear park in the world.
One of the best ways to get the economy moving when we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic would be to provide jobs. Edmonton and area could really make a statement as a sports-events city by building these facilities. Government has been spending a lot of money during the pandemic but this would come under the heading of investing money with real quality-of-life benefits when it’s over.
On Twitter: @ByTerryJones
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