News / Ottawa

Why the government decided against an NHL game on Parliament Hill for Canada 150

In their pitch, the NHL was promising a game that would put Canada at the forefront. After much consideration, the heritage department decided it was not the right fit.

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly said after due consideration, her department decided an NHL game on Parliament Hill wasn't a good fit, and to go with ordinary Canadians skating instead.

Justin Tang / The Canadian Press

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly said after due consideration, her department decided an NHL game on Parliament Hill wasn't a good fit, and to go with ordinary Canadians skating instead.

The government had many key details worked out for the staging of an NHL game on Parliament Hill before putting the idea on ice, Metro can reveal.

The historic outdoor game would have taken place as part of the country's Canada 150 celebrations but last fall the government opted not to pursue the idea.

Documents Metro received after a year-long delay show the government had briefings prepared for the board of internal economy, the committee of MPs which controls events on the hill.

In their pitch to the government, the NHL was promising a game that would put Canada at the forefront.

“We would infuse the game with an assortment of uniquely Canadian elements, such as boards created from B.C. lumber, an Alumni Game featuring Canada’s greatest living hockey legends and a national contest to bring a selection of Canadians from every province,” reads the league’s application under the Canada 150 program.

The league was also offering to put the Canada 150 logo into games and other promotions in both this season and last to help draw attention to the game.

Briefing notes indicated that a prohibition on advertising on the hill could be worked around, because it would be similar to Canada Day on Parliament Hill, where sponsors are thanked for their involvement.

The NHL had offered designs for a stadium of between 23,000 and 27,000 seats on the hill that would have started construction in mid-October this year and been open to the game in mid-December and then deconstructed through January.

On the day of the game, the hill would be fenced off and Wellington Street would have been closed to traffic for several days.

The details are blacked out, but the government was prepared to make some financial contribution to the game. It also envisioned in-kind contributions from other government departments, the city and Ottawa 2017.

The department also appeared to worry about setting a precedent, but in a briefing note they wrote they didn’t think anyone would want to try this again.

“Given the condition that a profit not be made from the event, it is unlikely that other organizations will proactively seek to host an event on Parliament Hill.”

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly said her department gave the idea due consideration, but ultimately it was not the right fit.

“The idea of Canada 150 has been to empower communities and we have wanted to have a very bottom-up approach,” she said.

Joly said it makes more sense to have ordinary Canadians skating on the hill.

“We will have the chance some great NHL players eventually skating with people here, but Canada is about the strength of its communities and Canada 150 has reflected Canada.”

NHL on Parliament Hill document

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