Vancouver Canucks hosting Montreal in home opener
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
The NHL season is into its second week. It still feels weird to watch hockey games with no fans, but that is the pandemic world we are living in. Amusingly, Colorado Avalanche play-by-play announcer Conor McGahey posted a video on Twitter playing solitaire between periods—with the game projected over the entire ice surface. With no fans in the stands, Call of Duty will be next!
When this article was submitted, the Vancouver Canucks finished playing two road games each against the Edmonton Oilers, and the Calgary Flames. During their opening night game against Edmonton January 13, the Canucks won by a score of 5 to 3. The Canucks play their first home game January 20 versus the Montreal Canadiens (set of three home games against the Habs January 20, 21, and 23).
Unfortunately, the NHL has not been immune to COVID-19—and this includes the Vancouver Canucks. On January 10, Sportsnet reported the Canucks canceled their practice after possible exposure to COVID-19. The Canucks are the first Canadian NHL team to be exposed to the Coronavirus. The same day, the Canucks posted on Twitter: “#CanucksCamp practices and workouts for today are cancelled. The decision was made out of an abundance of caution due to potential exposure of COVID-19.” Two days later, Sportsnet reported that Canucks general manager Jim Benning stated that J.T. Miller and Jordie Benn were not available to play during the Canucks’ road trip to Alberta. Benning declined to provide further details regarding the players’ state of health.
Furthermore, other teams have been affected by COVID-19. The NHL website reported on January 12 that the Dallas Stars resumed practice after six players and two staff members tested positive for coronavirus. The Dallas players and staff are self-isolating, and the Stars’ training facilities closed for several days to perform contact tracing. The NHL also announced 27 players from nine teams had tested positive for COVID-19 during training camp. Among the 27 players listed there are 17 Dallas players, and majority of them are asymptomatic and recovering without any issues.
Nevertheless, there is reason to be optimistic about the Canucks. With Bo Horvat’s grit and leadership and the offensive skill of forwards Brock Boeser and star Elias Pettersson—the Canucks have the talent to score goals. However, when their top line is being shut down, they will need the others to provide secondary scoring: Jake Virtanen, J.T. Miller, Tanner Pearson, and Adam Gaudette. In addition, the Canucks added youth to their lineup with Swedish forward Nils Höglander; he was selected by the Canucks in the second round (40th overall) in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Also, the Canucks’ defence is balanced with the young talent of Quinn Hughes, veterans Alex Edler, Tyler Myers, Travis Hamonic, and Nate Schmidt (acquired in a trade from the Vegas Golden Knights). Let’s not forget that Thatcher Demko and Braden Holtby aim to be a solid goaltending duo.
In other NHL news, New Jersey Devils goalie, Corey Crawford, announced his retirement after 10 NHL seasons. Crawford won two Stanley Cups as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015. And Willie O’Ree, the first black player to play in the NHL, will have his number 22 jersey retired at TD Garden in Boston February 18. Boston Bruins CEO, Charlie Jacobs, stated in a news release January 12: “After breaking the colour barrier as a Boston Bruin in 1958 and eventually retiring from professional hockey in 1979, Willie became the ultimate ambassador for improving diversity and inclusion within the game of hockey. The entire hockey world is forever indebted to Willie for all that he has done, and continues to do, for the sport.”
Vancouver Canucks January 2021 game schedule:
January 20, 21, and 23, home games versus Montreal Canadiens
January 25, 27, and 28, home games versus Ottawa Senators
January 30, road game versus Winnipeg Jets