We are in unprecedented times, and if we want to find opportunity it means we have to go further and work harder to bring business to Alberta. The ingenuity of Alberta was evident by the recent success of the NHL bubble and shows that Alberta can seize opportunities even during these uncertain times.
The NHL bubble based out of Edmonton was a major success. Through 10 weeks they performed 67,613 tests on players and staff with zero cases of COVID-19. The eyes of the hockey world were focused on Edmonton, and it would be reasonable to expect to see positive side effects of that for years to come.
So, what lessons does this experience have for businesses in the months and years ahead?
For one, being ambitious is the right thing to do. Edmonton was hardly the first city to try to be the hub; a lot of cities had their eyes on this opportunity. Edmonton is the NHL’s most northern city and isn’t the regular tourist attraction as seen in other cities. That didn’t stop the team or our province from selling the city. One of a dozen or so applicants, there is no doubt that Edmonton was the most vocal and eager of cities to host the games. It was an ambitious bid, and it paid off. Edmonton was not only one of two NHL hosts, it was also the city chosen to exclusively host the conference finals and Stanley Cup Championship series.
Second, success in trying times doesn’t come easy. While eyes from around the world were focused on hockey, many sacrifices and countless hours of hard work were invested to see it all come together. This included venue, hotel and restaurant staff who stayed in the bubble for months to make everything work. It included players who gave up their usual lifestyles to stay in a hotel and focus on their craft. It included league management who followed all health protocols to come to Edmonton and see that everything was done right. It didn’t come easy – success in business never does – and that should serve as a reminder for the months and years ahead.
Finally, and this cannot be overlooked, it is important to look after your staff. Alberta businesses genuinely take pride in stressing safety in the workplace. It’s something we celebrate, and something we always look to improve upon. Safety was paramount for the NHL, and the players and staff came together with what was basically a perfect record.
Meeting the challenge is the Alberta way. We’ve met them before and hosting the hockey world is a sign that we still have it.
This recent experience has brought eyes from around the world to Edmonton during a global pandemic. It wasn’t easy to accomplish, but Albertans got it done. It’s something we as Edmontonians can be proud of, even if the local team didn’t contribute the way we hoped.
The success of the NHL model has drawn the attention of the IIHF resulting in their decision to have a bubble for the World Juniors in Edmonton. While this will be another opportunity for our province to exceed expectations, let’s make sure it is not the last. Edmonton and Alberta can succeed in the months and years ahead, and the hockey business in Edmonton is just one example of how we will be up to the task.