The Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour, which was scheduled to storm into Campbell River in two weeks, has been canceled due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.
“Based on advice to limit large gatherings due to public health concerns about the coronavirus, Rogers Sports & Media has announced they will cancel all remaining Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour stops this season, including the one in Campbell River on March 21 and 22,” according to the release from the city Wednesday.
The City of Campbell River says it, too, also cancelled related events leading up to the weekend festival including Pop-Up Hockey, as well as the events scheduled for March 20.
“We know a lot of people were looking forward to this event and will be disappointed about the cancellation, but public health is the most important factor in a situation like this,” says deputy city manager Ron Neufeld. “The city has been monitoring the situation closely and taken steps to do our part locally to help limit the spread of the virus. Given how popular this event would have been, and the potential for concern around large gatherings, we understand that, unfortunately, it’s necessary to cancel.”
It’s likely disappointing for many at City Hall, as well, as just Monday evening at the public meeting of city council, city clerk Elle Brovold made a presentation about all the benefits the event would have for the city itself.
Besides the many fun, family-friendly events that were scheduled leading up to the weekend’s celebration for people to take part in, there was expected to be a large economic impact to the community, as well.
“It will be a very large setup, beginning on the Wednesday before,” Brovold told council, “and there will be large crews coming in, supplemented by local labour, so this will be a big boon to the local economy. The amount of people coming in to broadcast on behalf of Rogers and Sportsnet is very significant. They’ve booked up a couple of hotels and they’ll be spending a lot of money.”
The other major benefit, Brovold told council, would have been the national exposure that Campbell River would have received from having the event on-site broadcasting live across the country, including a few pre-produced features highlighting some of the wonderful things the community has to offer.
Some of that benefit will remain, however, despite the event’s cancellation.
While Sportsnet’s national broadcast of Rogers Hometown Hockey featuring the Winnipeg Jets vs. Dallas Stars on Sunday, March 22 will now be produced from the NHL on Sportsnet studio, the company says it will continue to profile local hockey stories from Campbell River.
“The well-being of the community, fans and our employees is a top priority and we need to take all necessary steps to ensure their safety,” says Rogers Sports & Media representative Jason Jackson. “While this is disappointing for everyone involved, it is the right thing to do.”
Mayor Andy Adams says he, too, is disappointed, but he understands the rationalle behind the decision, saying “I think it’s the correct move to take the precautionary principle,” and he hopes there will be an opportunity in the future to host the event.
“It would have been a lot of fun,” Adams says. “A lot of people were looking forward to it so I have contacted Rogers to see if we can get on the list for next year.”
The city has also taken the event cancellations as an opportunity to get the word out about its efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus, including the installation of more hand sanitizer stations at its facilities and encourage people to increase the frequency of hand washing, avoid touching their face, maintain social distance – including considering stopping handshaking and hugging – stay home if they feel sick, self-isolate and contact the B.C. Nurse Line at 8-1-1 if they are concerned they might have been exposed to or contracted the coronavirus, and seek immediate medical attention if they have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
To ensure the city is fully informed and prepared, representatives participate on the provincial health and emergency teleconferences, the city release says.
Find current information on COVID-19 at the BC Centre for Disease Control online at www.bccdc.ca