Entertainment Mandryk: 'Riders and reopening Moe's foremost concerns this summer
NHL evaluating alternate plans for North Division's playoff setup
As the Stanley Cup Playoffs creep closer and closer and there has been no change at the Canadian border, it is seeming more and more likely that there will be some form of relocation in the postseason. TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that the NHL is not rushing to any conclusions, waiting to see if border policies are relaxed, but have to evaluate alternative plans for the North Division winner to be able to compete in the semifinals and Cup Final this season.
It would certainly be wrong to suggest Premierabandons the “return to normality” he unveiled a year ago that plotted a five-step strategy to end six-foot social distancing conventions and allow us to squeeze together like green sardines at Rider games.
Last week’s three-step plan is very much about the above goals, which also likely explains the roadmap’s ambiguity in how it intends to meet those objectives.
COVID protocol-related absences: 04/25
Each day, the NHL will publicly release the list of players that are unavailable to their respective teams due to being in COVID-19 Protocol. Here is today’s list: Calgary – Josh Leivo Colorado – Joonas Donskoi, Mikko Rantanen New Jersey – P.K.Calgary – Josh Leivo
It’s noteworthy that the government now says its new plan supersedes theIt’s also noteworthy that it’s even less clear on what specifics are required to meet those goals. Cases per day? Hospitalizations? Percentage of people vaccinated?
Despite knowing more about COVID-19 than we did a year ago, last week’s plans have even fewer specifics, and it’s hard not to suspect that this was deliberate.
Officially, the government explains that the old five-step plan is now moot because vaccines — clearly, a game-changer — were neither available nor contemplated as part of the old plan. To be fair, the old plan wasn’t crystal clear on what was required before Saskatchewan could reopen its ultimate place of worship, Mosaic Stadium.
Mandryk: Moe offers a COVID-19 roadmap that could get tattered or lost
Premier Scott Moe’s roadmap to reopening is brilliant in its simplicity. Such trusty, old roadmaps were great in their day, when travel was about sticking to paved roads on sunny days as you ventured from Point A to an unfamiliar Point B. But beyond the fact they were clumsy, impossible to refold and easily lost, torn or tattered, didn’t roadmaps become obsolete simply because we all got iPhones with global positioning? Why not use your new-fangled electronic contraption instead? We are still in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic.
Really, no one was envisioning a year ago that we’d have vaccines orin Saskatchewan. We didn’t anticipate we’d see a second straight year without CFL football.
But knowing both politics in this province and how the love for the Saskatchewan Roughriders often plays into those politics, it’s reasonable to assume getting as many fans as possible into Mosaic Stadium as soon as possible is a big driving force behind Moe’s new strategy.
Of course, no one is officially saying that.
Step three of the roadmap simply and ambiguously states “most regulations will be lifted” if 70 per cent of people 18 years and older are vaccinated by mid-July. Moe has only gone as far as saying we will see large crowds return to Mosaic if Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab deems it safe.
However, government officials say discussions with the Roughriders and Shahab have been ongoing and acknowledge the province is “looking at the success of large-scale events south of the border where vaccine rates are likely lower than ours will be in July.”
NHL's COVID protocol-related absences for May 8, 2021
Players in the protocol are: Colorado's Devan Dubnyk and Washington's Evgeny Kuznetsov.Calgary – TBA
The government also says it has no interest in “vaccine passports” as a requirement to attend large-scale entertainment or sporting events.
But when asked whether the decision to reopen such large scale events might be possibly tied to achieving a further level of vaccination, the answer was slightly different: “There’s an awareness that things like Riders’ games in August or Agribition in the fall would be a pretty solid incentive for everyone to keep doing our main jobs — getting vaccinated,” a government official clarified.
This takes us to the ever-present synergy between the interests of the Roughriders and those of the provincial government that intersect at the entry gates to Mosaic Stadium.
What the government can realistically allow not only depends on the success of the COVID-19 fight but also what the CFL announced last month.
Full CFL stadiums seem unlikely anytime soon. The B.C. Lions are talking about allowing four to five thousand, which would still leave the viability of some teams in doubt.
But after being the first premier in the country with a reopening plan, bet that Moe intends to announce CFL fans in the stands. And bet that however that happens will have something to do with Saskatchewan’s vaccination goals.
“That’s how later this summer we are going to fill that stadium in this town,” Moe said Friday in the sitting’s last question period.
And bet that we will be the first province to doff our masks outdoors.
Exactly how Moe intends to make this happen remains unclear, but this is surely what he wants to see this summer.
Mandryk is the political columnist for the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.
NHL's COVID protocol-related absences for June 3, 2021 .
Each day, the NHL will publicly release the list of players that are unavailable to their respective teams due to being in the COVID-19 Protocol. Here is today's list.Colorado – Jayson Megna