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Covid Still Looms over NHL and Vancouver Canucks are No Nonsense



Vancouver Canucks, covid masks
Vancouver Canucks fans will be wearing masks at home games at Rogers Arena.

Progress is being made on the Covid front, in the general population and in the hockey world. As of Wednesday afternoon it was reported that 87.1% of eligible people age-12 and older in British Columbia had received at least one Covid vaccine with 79.7% of the population already done with two. On the hockey front the Vancouver Canucks say they’re not messing around.

“Our organization will be 100% vaccinated by the first game of the season,” declared Canucks General Manager Jim Benning Wednesday morning. “We have a strict policy in place also (in reference to other NHL teams taking a no-nonsense approach), and we’ll be at 100%. Players, everybody on the staff, everybody in the front office, everybody’s been vaccinated.”

Projected 4th-line centre Brandon Sutter appears to be late to the preseason party due to illness. Benning says it isn’t Covid and other tests are being run. Part-time NHL winger Justin Bailey, who re-signed a one-year deal with the organization this summer, did test positive for Covid at the border, is back in his hometown of Buffalo, and will arrive to the team late.

In parts of North America the situation remains dire, not excluding of course, places where NHL hockey is played. In hopes of keeping migrating hockey players healthy, in hopes of getting fannies in the seats and keeping them there, and in hopes of making cross-border travel as seamless as possible, the NHL is mandating player vaccinations. Many teams are handling strict situations on their own. In Columbus, Blue Jackets team President John Davidson told Zac Rinaldo that he’s not invited to camp despite the veteran forward signing a two-way contract this summer. “JD” said his club would have 67 players at camp and Rinaldo would not be one of them. He may or may not show up for the eventual AHL pre-season camp.

As for travel, under the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and the NHL Players Association, a player who can’t cross the border for whatever reason to play games, is subject to suspension without pay. Detroit’s un-vaccinated forward Tyler Bertuzzi is one who presently falls into that category. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said this week he believes 98% of the league is vaccinated.

Teams around the continent are gradually jumping on the mandatory vaccination policy for fans wanting to attend games, and even if spectators arrive fully vaxxed, some buildings will be at 50% capacity, at least for now. Rogers Arena is one of them based on provincial rules, but that policy could change. The Toronto Maple Leafs have said they’ll be playing in front of full houses, albeit with proof-of-vaccination required. The Flames, Jets, and Oilers also announced last week that they’ll play to 100% capacity.

Hockey Covid stories continue to hit close to home. While there is no need to rehash the devastating spring of Covid infections the Vancouver Canucks endured, know that current NHL players are still being impacted by the affects. Some much more serious than others. Up the road in Northern Alberta it was reported Wednesday that Oilers goalie Alex Stalock is expected to miss the 2021-22 season with a COVID-related heart condition. Oilers general manager Ken Holland also said newly acquired defenceman Duncan Keith would miss the start of training camp while he quarantines after getting second Covid vaccination. He’ll report to the club October 1st.

Being the most hard-hit NHL team during this global pandemic, it’s no surprise the Vancouver Canucks are accepting of the rules and regulations. Forward J.T. Miller addressed the topic of protocol enforcement with the media on Wednesday.

“It’s out of my control, so I just worry about what I can control,” Miller said. “They’re set in place for a reason and I just try and do my part. I got vaccinated and do what I had to do to come here and do my job and it’s what I get paid to do, so you’ve got to do what the rules are.”

Benning concurred.
“As a group they knew the importance of getting vaccinated and to give ourselves the best chance to get back to normal, and there wasn’t too many guys that didn’t want to do it.”The fully vaccinated on-ice training camp begins Thursday morning at 9 am in Abbotsford.

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