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Canucks Fans in Cortina!? Saturday’s Pre-Practice Tidbits …

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Inside the Pschorr Haus bar in Cortina, Italy.

A Vancouver Canucks Saturday morning:

A cohort of mine, Brian Pinelli, who mostly writes for Around the Rings magazine covering the Olympics, but has also covered a boatload of international ice hockey events for USA Hockey, The New York Times, and others, recently spotted a dandy item in Cortina, Italy, the home of the 2026 Winter Olympics.

Pinelli recently moved to northern Italy full-time from Prague, Czech Republic, mostly to cover ski racing and other alpine events, and to cover the pub scene … an unpaid vocation.

Inside what he calls a “Bavarian-style sports bar” in the centre of town, otherwise full of Italian soccer jerseys, hangs a framed Vancouver Canucks ‘sweater’, to use the very old school terminology. Apparently there is a Sidney Crosby jersey in the bar as well. In terms of (ice) hockey representation, it’s the Vancouver Canucks and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Pretty cool. Maybe it’s simply a foreshadow, with six Canucks potentially participating in the Games in Beijing, and who knows how many by the time Cortina rolls around.

What’s really remarkable is that just two weeks ago, while enjoying the spoils of an establishment in Palermo, Italy on the island of Sicily, Pinelli realized the name of another cool spot was Wanderlust, which just happens to be the name of my twice-a-week international hockey newsletter Hockey Wanderlüst.

I produce it with a pal in New York and another in Stockholm and Pinelli occasionally contributes. What’s really wild is the ‘L’ in Wanderlust very much resembles a hockey stick. Who’d a thunk it?

I feel a pilgrimage is in order.

Practice Buzz

It shouldn’t be too hard for the Vancouver Canucks to get out of bed for practice Saturday, other than the bumps and bruises inflicted by a large and physical Winnipeg Jets club on Friday night. I’m referring more on an emotional and psychological level, given the Canucks three game winning streak which includes a 4-3 shoot-out win over the Jets.

The team has been peppy and aggressive under Head Coach Bruce Boudreau, who just started working here this past Monday. It’ll be the second full team practice under “Gabby”, there have also been two game-day morning skates.

We’ll find out if there are any other dinged up Canucks bodies or if a maintenance day for anyone is in order. Two defencemen are already out: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, apparently for another week, and Travis Hamonic, on injured reserve for likely two or three weeks.

Practice begins at 11:30 am at Rogers Arena. The Canucks host the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday evening.

Unfortunate Departures

“It’s a business.” We hear that all the time when someone loses their job. We’re all familiar with it and it’s not always fair, whether it’s hockey op’s, accounting, or broadcasting. Sometimes things are simply out of our control especially when hierarchies change.

Friday the Canucks announced the departure of two longtime employees who will not be retained under the new regime of President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford. This was the release from the club:

Vancouver, BC — The Vancouver Canucks announced today changes within the Hockey Operations Department. Chris Gear, Assistant GM and Chief Legal Officer, and Jonathan Wall, Senior Director, Hockey Operations and Analytics, have been relieved of their duties.

“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to sincerely thank Chris and Jonathan for their dedication and commitment to the Vancouver Canucks,” said Stan Smyl. “They contributed greatly at both the NHL and AHL levels during their many years of service and played important roles across Canucks Sports & Entertainment business operations and community initiatives. They are both talented, hardworking people who will no doubt have success in the next chapters of their careers. We wish them all the best.”

Gear was part of the five-headed humanoid that was to lead the Canucks through this management transition. Announced Monday by team owner Francesco Aquilini and led by interim GM Smyl, the list also included Gear, Abbotsford Canucks GM Ryan Johnson, and the Sedin boys, Daniel and Henrik.

With the hiring of Rutherford announced Thursday, it appears the concept lasted about a day-and-a-half. Rutherford will be selecting a GM.

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