The Saddledome, home of the Calgary Flames, is seen in Calgary, Thursday, March 12, 2020. The NHL has suspended the 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

The Saddledome, home of the Calgary Flames, is seen in Calgary, Thursday, March 12, 2020. The NHL has suspended the 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Calgary wants to be a hub city as Canada loses international sports to virus

City is eyeing Edmonton’s success as an NHL hub

Canada’s status as an international winter-sport host is taking a beating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cancellations that started in March when the novel coronavirus virus shut down sport have resumed with Canada losing more World Cups and world championships in 2020 and 2021.

However, Calgary is attempting to plug the drain.

With an eye on Edmonton’s success so far as an NHL hub city, Tourism Calgary and WinSport at Canada Olympic Park want the city to be an international hub for a sport they’re not ready to reveal.

“We’re in conversations on a couple of major bubbles that could potentially come to Calgary,” Tourism Calgary senior vice-president of sales Carson Ackroyd told The Canadian Press.

“With a couple of our key facilities, one of them obviously being WinSport, where do we have a natural advantage from a facility perspective where bubbling could attract a number of events into one spot?”

The International Skating Union that governs speedskating is considering The Netherlands as a potential hub for its long-track season.

The world governing body of skiing (FIS) is compressing multiple alpine ski races into Europe this season and skipping North American stops altogether.

Canada’s snowboard and freestyle ski World Cups in 2021 remain on the FIS calendar for now.

Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park — a 1988 Winter Olympics legacy — is scheduled to host World Cup moguls in January followed by freestyle skiing and snowboard in February.

Several hectares of terrain in a city serviced by an international airport, plus decades of experience as a host, make Calgary a potential candidate for international federations looking for hubs to complete a season.

WinSport chief executive officer Barry Heck isn’t limiting possibilities to outdoor snow sport.

With four NHL-sized arenas, 15 dressing rooms, convention space and a commercial kitchen, Heck says WinSport can pivot to different types of sports events, including indoor competition.

“There’s lots we can do here,” Heck said. “Everything is here and it’s easily contained.”

Freestyle Canada chief executive officer Peter Judge says a hub city is one option among many FIS could choose to run a freestyle ski season.

“It’s really just trying to boil down what’s possible as the scenarios change minute by minute. We will do everything we can to have events in Canada,” Judge said. “They’re important to us.

“We have partners that have always supported us in having events in Canada. We’re optimistic that we’ll figure out some way to get something done in Canada and keep our athletes safe and the general public safe.”

World Cup alpine ski racing in Lake Louise, Alta., speedskating in Calgary, short-track speedskating in Quebec, a para hockey tournament in Bridgewater, N.S., and the 2021 world luge championship in Whistler, B.C., recently joined the list of international competitions in Canada scratched because of the virus.

The women’s world hockey championship in Nova Scotia, the women’s world curling championship in Prince George, B.C., the world figure skating championships in Montreal and World Cup cross-country skiing in Quebec City and Canmore, Alta., were cancelled in March when the first wave of COVID-19 hit North America.

From lost dollars spent at and around events to young Canadian athletes missing the chance to compete at their first World Cup because the host team gets extra entries, there is an impact on local economies and the sport system.

The 2013 world luge championship in Whistler, B.C. generated $1.1 million in visitor, participant and event organizer spending while generating over half a million dollars in taxes for three levels of government, according to the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance.

Hotels, restaurants, transportation providers and retailers profit from international teams and their coaches and support staff, plus competition officials, arriving days before the event to train and adjust to the local time zone.

“There is a concentrated, significant effort in reaching out to try and bring this activity to the city to help support our tourism economy and the recovery of the province in general,” Ackroyd said.

“The sport-event piece is definitely one of the pieces that will come back in the visitor economy around the world, potentially before others.”

The host country can often field a larger team in a World Cup.

Canada enters up to six men in the Lake Louise downhill, for example, but doesn’t get as many berths elsewhere.

“I think any time you have an opportunity to race against the best in the world, it contributes to athlete development,” Own The Podium chief executive officer Anne Merklinger said.

“Sports are now looking at what are the strategies to fill that gap? It is no doubt going to be different if we can’t host that World Cup where we might have had ‘X’ number of spots.”

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Calgary

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced the province surpasses one million COVID-19 tests Friday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up by 100 in last 24 hours

Most central Alberta communities under province’s enhanced measures list

Millet Fire Department 2019. Photo/ Pipestone Flyer.
Millet Fire Department hosts “Light it Up for Liam” event

The Millet Fire Department is lighting up the fire hall this season with holiday spirit.

file photo
Wetaskiwin, Maskwacis RCMP search warrant seize drugs; numerous charges laid

39-year-old Wetaskiwin man, Wayne Wiebe charged with 21 criminal code offences.

.
Alberta confirmed more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases Sunday

Central zone active cases slightly up

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Russ and Luanne Carl are sharing about their experiences of fighting COVID-19 this past summer.
photo submitted
Stettler couple opens up about COVID-19 battle

Luanne and Russ Carl urge others to bolster personal safety measures amidst ongoing pandemic

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following party caucus in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental health as grounds for assisted death is likely temporary: Lametti

Senators also suggested the exclusion renders the bill unconstitutional

Claudio Mastronardi, Toronto branch manager at Carmichael Engineering, is photographed at the company’s offices in Mississauga, Ont., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. As indoor air quality becomes a major concern in places of business, HVAC companies are struggling to keep up with demand for high quality filtration systems. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Business is booming for HVAC companies as commercial buildings see pandemic upgrades

‘The demand right now is very high. People are putting their health and safety ahead of cost’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

Traffic crosses over the Lions Gate Bridge from North Vancouver into Vancouver on July 2, 2015. Motorists would have to pay a fee to drive into downtown Vancouver under the city's plan to slow climate change but one expert warns it could pose financial hardship for some. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver’s climate plan ‘first 10 steps in a journey of 10,000,’ says expert

Almost 40 per cent of Vancouver’s carbon pollution comes from vehicles

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
After COVID-related transplant delays, 16-year-old N.S. girl gets lung transplant

‘This is the difficult time now of seeing Tahlia in ICU hooked up to 15 IVs and sedated’

Most Read