For most cities, 2020 was the year that shut down events. But for Edmonton, 2020 brought a unique opportunity to host not only one of the most anticipated annual championships in sports, but one of the pandemic’s few successful sports bubbles.
One of two cities selected to host the 2020 NHL season, for three months Edmonton became the surrogate home of the league’s Western Conference as well as the league’s grand finale, the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff. Not a single positive COVID-19 test result was reported from within the bubble, and this success has given Explore Edmonton a chance to bolster its resume with an accomplishment few other destinations can boast.
The capital of Alberta and the gateway city to Canada’s north, Edmonton is a city where hockey is ingrained in the culture as well as its infrastructure. Rogers Place arena (home of the Edmonton Oilers) along with the new Ice District Public Plaza and the JW Marriott Edmonton Ice District served as the physical hub for the NHL bubble, where each of the 12 teams took over a full floor in three area hotels to stay safely distanced. Players, coaches, and staff all underwent daily testing as well as temperature and symptom checks. Other mandates included requiring masks in public settings and physical distancing when not playing.
Although COVID-19 forced Edmonton All In, Explore Edmonton’s meetings and conventions team, “to shift gears and navigate this new normal, there have been opportunities in this shift that have helped Edmonton to shine even brighter,” said Anna Look, Edmonton All In’s director of MICE. “Hosting the NHL playoff bubble has proved that while anything can happen on a moment’s notice, the partnerships that exist across the city remain resilient and will provide any event with the certainty that is needed, when uncertainty hits.”
Look emphasizes that the key to the success of the 2020 NHL bubble was across-the-board collaboration between Edmonton’s hospitality and tourism industry, the Oilers Entertainment Group, as well as municipal and provincial governments.
“Our experience with the successful events we have hosted during the pandemic has helped us to develop true partnerships with our event-planning clients,” Look said. “We know safety and contract flexibility are their top priorities today and we can accommodate both. Not to mention, the best practices that had been developed through this experience can be scaled and provide piece of mind for event planners with programs of any size.”
Edmonton is also seeking to become the first Canadian destination to earn a citywide health and safety designation. Explore Edmonton is teaming up with the Edmonton International Airport, Edmonton Destination Marketing Hotels (EDMH), the Oilers Entertainment Group, and the already accredited Edmonton Convention Centre and Edmonton EXPO Centre to pursue a citywide GBAC STAR accreditation.