On the day the Vancouver Canucks opened training camp for the abbreviated 2021 National Hockey League season, the province also gave the NHL club approval to play home games at Rogers Arena, but without fans in attendance.
Premier John Horgan made the announcement in a tweet Sunday morning, saying he had spoken to team owner Francesco Aquilini and “was pleased to confirm” the league’s return-to-play plan would include games in B.C.
“Let’s Go Canucks!” the premier added.
Despite Horgan’s enthusiastic endorsement, there are many British Columbians who don’t think professional hockey players should be jetting around the country at a time when people are being advised to stay close to their home communities and avoid non-essential travel.
“Sports is more important than health? I’m not sure. That’s not really good,” said Vancouverite Manya Kellou, as she walked on the seawall in False Creek.
The Canucks say they are confident the team has a solid health plan in place, and that provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry consulted on COVID-19 safety protocols.
“She had a lot of input in this return to play,” said general manager Jim Benning. “She had some real good ideas that we’re going to incorporate as an organization.”
In order to avoid mandatory quarantine periods for international travellers, for the first time ever, the NHL will feature an all-Canadian division.
The seven Canadian teams will travel the country to complete a 56-game schedule before four advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“We’ve never seen an all-Canadian division. Everyone knows the passion of hockey in Canada. You know it’s going to be a very exciting season,” said head coach Travis Green.
With the issue of where games will be played settled, some fans are already optimistically looking ahead to the season.
“I think we’re looking forward to, maybe soon, a Stanley Cup,” fan Sharon Bardsley told CTV News.
The Canucks open the regular season Jan. 13 in Edmonton, and the team’s first home game will be Jan. 20, when they host the Montreal Canadians.
After speaking with @fr_aquilini yesterday about the NHL’s return-to-play plan, I’m pleased to confirm the enhanced health measures being put in place for the upcoming season mean games can safely be played here in BC.
Lets go @Canucks!