The Covid pandemic has been tragic for some, traumatic for many. Count Vancouver Canucks head coach Travis Green among them.
“It’s been a hard year for a lot of people,” Green stated, “not just hockey players … for society. And, for people that think that Covid isn’t that big a deal, ahhh, I think they’re wrong.”
He knows they’re wrong. Green was seriously ill for part of a two week bout and dragging in his recovery for much longer than that, after more than twenty players and staff fell ill in late March and early April. He later appeared in a Canucks public service announcement encouraging people to get vaccinated.
“Some people it doesn’t affect, and some people it does,” he continued, “and personally, it affected me, and it took me two months, probably two-and-a-half months to feel normal or close to normal again, and then we got into free agency and the draft, and our group is taking a little bit of time now. But we’re back into coach’s meetings and talking to our coaches about systems, now that we can see our line-up taking shape. So, as far as summer vacation, it’s more about getting two feet on the ground and kind of resting mentally and getting re-focused and feeling good about ourselves.”
When asked the age-old “What did you do with your summer vacation” question, Green explained, it’s “the summer that wasn’t.”
“I tell you what … I don’t know if it’s started yet, or if it will at all,” Green said. “But, once our season ended, and getting Covid, and the sprint to the end of the season, I can honestly say I have never gone through a year like that where I really just needed to just get away for a bit. I didn’t even have player meetings, year-end meetings, for probably a month. I just felt like personally I needed to step away, get re-focused, to evaluate our year, talk to players, and really have a conversation that mattered, and I think the players did as well. To really step away and get away from it a bit because it felt like a sprint, last season … it was hard, it was a hard year.”
The strangest thing, from wherever one was watching in the league, was seeing the Canucks and Calgary Flames play three meaningless regular season make-up games at the tail end of the season while other clubs were already starting the playoffs.
“It was bizarre,” Green said. “I give our guys credit, both teams credit. Those aren’t easy games to get up for and go and play. It was strange, nothing I’ve encountered before. Playoff hockey is going on and we’re getting those games in, but give both teams credit, they battled hard and they were competitive games.”
A couple of days later, Green was given a two-year contract extension. Not long after that, two new coaches were added. Brad Shaw, who handled the defence in Columbus for five seasons, was hired as an assistant coach, and Kyle Gustafson as Assistant/Special Assignments Coach. Gustafson comes from Green’s old coaching-stomping grounds, Portland of the WHL, where GM Jim Benning played juniors.
The staff is in place, most of the roster is in place, despite key elements remaining unsigned, and it’s almost time to head north. Give Green about another month. Unlike his pals, former NHLers Glen Murray and Rob Blake down in Manhattan Beach, Green won’t be diving into the Pacific anytime soon to ride a longboard. He will however be hitting the golf course.
“No surf, not a surfer, not a big water guy,” Green proclaimed. “My son has picked up the game of golf, so, it’s getting scary, it’s not going to be long before he’s beating me, so I’m not looking forward to that day.”
He is looking forward to settling back into his Vancouver digs and heading to the rink.
“I can say that right now is probably about as excited as I’ve been for a long time about our team, with the additions that we’ve added, the depth that we have, and I can’t wait to get going again.”