The Vancouver Canucks and the NHL apparently postponed Saturday night’s game at Rogers Arena against the Ottawa Senators for limited capacity reasons. In other words, they’re betting on the fact that down the calendar a wee bit, preferably during what was the Olympic window, they’ll be able to play in front of 100% capacity instead of 50% capacity at Rogers Arena and maximize revenue.
Given the unpredictable nature of Covid, duh, and the Province of British Columbia’s response to it, that seems to be putting a lot of faith in the culmination of the pandemic. Bit of a risky business. It also means another weekend off for the Vancouver Canucks.
“It sucks to be honest,” Canucks forward Tanner Pearson stated. “We practice all week and try to gear up for a game again and now it gets postponed and now we’ve got another what, five days until our next one. It’s not ideal, but I guess it’s the way things are going right now.”
To make a long story short, the players have to pay back some of their salaries based on lost “Hockey Related Revenues” that they share with league ownership in a 50/50 split. They do this via an ever-expanding escrow account, so it behooves them to maximize revenue as well. It’s Covid versus accounts receivable.
Yet it’s walking a fine line.
That’s seven Canucks games postponed, most of the early ones for health and depleted roster reasons. In this case, why not just play it.
The Canucks team is red hot. 50% or 25% capacity is that much better than the empty building we saw the other night for the Maple Leafs and Oilers in Toronto. Why further squash your team’s roll. In the long run, another win and another two points at home might go a long way in preparation for this gruelling five-game road trip against some of the best teams in the NHL. Having one’s game legs heading into that gauntlet as opposed to having dead legs on night one or two would seem to make sense.
“Yeah, it’s a business, I think we all get that part,” Pearson added, “but when you have a full healthy squad here, it gets frustrating.”
The decision to postpone could easily be interpreted as shortsighted. Playoff revenues would be the ultimate bonus, right?
What would have been the best option for increasing the likelihood of propelling your team towards the postseason? Postponing the Saturday night game arguably wasn’t it. We may be splitting hairs here or we may not be. There is no guarantee the Canucks would have defeated the Senators, but the big added benefit is simply having another game under their belts.
“We want to play,” stated Vancouver Canucks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau. “Some how, some way, they’re all gonna catch up to you. Now with this home game being postponed, I think, I may be wrong, that makes it nine games in a row on the road we’re going to have, so that’s always a bit of a difficult scenario. We’ll just muddle through.”
One word came up again and again on Friday.
“I’d use the word frustrated,” Boudreau added. “They’ve practised really hard, but I think any player would tell you they’d rather play than practice.”
“I’m not going to lie, it’s frustrating,” said Canucks captain Bo Horvat. “We were obviously looking forward to playing and with the game being cancelled and us being off for a long time, we want to play hockey.”
There was also uniformity in concerns over how the team will respond on the road trip against US-based teams that have continued to play. The road trip is gonna be a big enough challenge as it is.
The NHL found a way out of the Olympics. Now it seems to be pushing fate with the space it earned on the calendar. Besides the three weeks gained in February, the league has also indicated it will add a week to the regular season.
Let’s hope the gamble pays off on a macro-scale. Micro-scale, as in what’s best for the Vancouver Canucks players and their hockey aspirations, this decision seems a bit sketchy.
Meanwhile, Boudreau couldn’t get too specific with the status of some of his Covid-effected personnel. He wasn’t hiding anything, it’s simply a matter of protocol complications. Again, the team hopes to have forwards Brock Boeser and Phil Di Giuseppe back for practice Saturday, but aren’t positive. Justin Dowling is an unknown, while injured defenceman Travis Hamonic suffered a “bit of a setback” with his lower body problem. They still might see him at practice. Elias Pettersson and Alex Chiasson are newly into Covid protocol and unavailable.
The Canucks will fly Sunday, practice on the road on Monday, and start their run of road games in Sunrise, Florida on Tuesday.