There will be no NHL hockey on Saturday or Sunday night in Vancouver.
The Vancouver Canucks announced on social media that they have postponed their home game against the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight (Dec. 18) as well as their game against the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday.
“The Vancouver Canucks have followed, and will continue to follow, all recommended guidelines aimed at protecting the health and safety of their players, staff and communities at large as set by the NHL and local health authorities,” the team said in a statement.
Earlier, the Canucks placed defenceman Tyler Myers on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. Myers joins teammates Brad Hunt, Juho Lammikko, Tucker Poolman and Luke Schenn, along with assistant coach Jason King, on the league’s list.
The Leafs also have a number of players on the COVID-19 protocol list including John Tavares, Alex Kerfoot, Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds.
In a Zoom media conference, Jim Rutherford, the Vancouver Canucks president of hockey operations and interim general manager, said he wasn’t surprised by the decision to postpone the games, but like many fans, was disappointed.
“I know that a lot of people came from out of town for this game. I feel bad for those fans that made those arrangements. From the team point-of-view, this was going to be a really good test for us,” he said.
“We’re disappointed, but safety comes first. The safety of the players. The safety of the fans. and I think this was the right decision,” he continued.
Rutherford also mentioned that the symptoms experienced by the players are mild, so the team is hopeful to return to the ice soon, but some sports analysts, including Rick Dhaliwal, the co-host of the Donnie and Dhali show, question if these cancellations will occur annually.
“Where’s the end game? Are we going through this every winter now with COVID? Is it going to be the norm? Are we ever going to get out of this? I cannot tell you enough of how it is frustrating. The players are frustrated. They just want to play,” he said.
And fans want to watch — fortunately for them, the Canucks expect to play the games on later dates, ticket holders are asked to hold onto their tickets and be on the lookout for future announcements.
But that might get tricky with the province’s new restrictions set for Monday, which includes limiting the capacity of venues holding 1,000 people or more to 50 per cent.
In the meantime, Rutherford said the team can still practice, but the certainty of future games and even the Olympics are still in question.
“I don’t think the players are doing cartwheels about the Olympics right now. I really don’t,” said Dhaliwal.
The NHL and NHLPA announced earlier on Saturday enhanced protocols aimed at curbing the spread of the virus amid the emergence of the omicron variant. The new measures include daily testing, increased use of masks in team facilities and while travelling, physical distancing and prohibitions on players dining out while on the road.
It comes as games slated for Saturday have been postponed including Florida at Minnesota, Boston at Montreal, Tampa Bay at Colorado and Columbus at Calgary – as teams deal with a rise in COVID-19 infections.
The league and the players’ union will re-evaluate the enhanced protocols by Jan. 7.
With files from The Canadian Press
Official announcement to come. The #Canucks games vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs today and the Arizona Coyotes tomorrow have been postponed to a later date. Fans are asked to hold onto their tickets and the team will communicate further details soon.
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) December 18, 2021