“A lot of these guys have young kids and they all ended up getting sick. So I think as a group, they knew the importance of getting vaccinated and to give ourselves the best chance to get back to normal.”Jim Benning
Forward JT Miller reflects and wants no repeat of the 2021 season
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
The Vancouver Canucks are beginning pre-season action before the start of the 2021-22 season. Canucks open the season on October 13 on the road against the Edmonton Oilers.
The team still has not resigned Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes, meaning that neither is currently at training camp; though fans hope there is still time for a deal to be made. However, Rick Dhaliwal from the Donnie and Dhali program on CHEK provided an update on the Pettersson and Hughes’ contract stalemate during a September 17 appearance on the Canucks Conversation Podcast with Chris Faber and David Quadrelli of Canucks Army. “As right now, every bit of info I have, everyone I have talked to today, [say] they are not close,” Dhaliwal said. “I think the pressure point is the day before training camp, that’s what I’ve been told by a lot of people. They’re difficult deals. These two are incredible players, first of all. Second of all, they got a tremendous amount of points in their entry-level deals. Points per game are one of the biggest parameters agents [consider] when they get new contracts for their clients and points per game for Hughes and Pettersson are very good for young players. They are obviously franchise players.”
Canucks GM, Jim Benning, addressed the media on September 22—the day before training camp began. He stated the entire organization will be fully vaccinated before the season opener. “So by the time the season starts, we will be 100 [percent],” he said as reported by CTV News Vancouver. “Players, everybody on the staff, everybody in the front office, everybody’s been vaccinated.”
Benning also discussed the disappointing 2021 season and how challenging it was due to the COVID-19 outbreak and its effects on his players and team staff. The team struggled with consistency, and even though the team worked hard, wins were unfortunately scarce. “What we went through last year as a team was really hard,” he said. “It wasn’t just hard on the players, but their families too. A lot of these guys have young kids and they all ended up getting sick. So I think as a group, they knew the importance of getting vaccinated and to give ourselves the best chance to get back to normal.”
Also, some Canucks players looked visibly frustrated during the season—such as forward, JT Miller. Despite Miller having a difficult season—and he certainly was not alone—he was still productive with 45 points in 53 games. Miller spoke about the 2021 season in an interview with Sportsnet in early September. He also wanted to set the record straight after a fake quote attributed to him was reported by TSN. This quote increased speculation that he wanted out of Vancouver immediately after the season ended: “I mean, this is the team I’m playing for and I have pride in that,” he said.
Miller explained that he tried not to focus on the “outside noise” that oftentimes occurs in a hockey-crazed market like Vancouver. “There was a lot of crap going on last year, but once the crap is over, there’s going to be something good to come out of it,” he said. ”I don’t pay attention to the rumours; I don’t really pay attention to the internet at all. [But] I was getting some texts, ‘What’s going on?’ I just wanted to set it straight, and I want to be part of this team. We’ve made some big moves coming into this year, we’re getting our fans back, a regular schedule, there’s a million reasons to be excited. I never once considered not coming back. It wasn’t even a question.”
Miller said the past season was very challenging; he wants to move on and focus on the upcoming season rather than dwelling in the past. “All the stuff that happened, it was just insane, right?” he said. “I just tried to move on. I don’t want to think about last year when we had six-to-nine guys hurt, almost at all times. We had long-term injuries, a lot of players that never played [in] the NHL before, and we’re all playing in front of no fans, guys quarantining between 30 and 50 days depending on who it was. Who the hell wants to think about that?”
In other NHL news, Hall of Fame play-by-play broadcaster, Jim Hughson, announced his retirement on September 21 after a 42-year career that began in radio in 1979. He was the play-by-play voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks. Hughson was also a prominent voice on national broadcasts on Hockey Night in Canada. “It’s been a fantastic run and I’d like to thank Sportsnet, Hockey Night in Canada and all my friends and colleagues over the years for the tremendous support and countless memories,” Hughson said in a statement. “This is a decision I made in consultation with my family and I’m very much at peace with it. My only goal in this industry was to work at the highest level and on the last day of the season. I’ve had that opportunity a number of times and will always be grateful for it.”
Hughson called a dozen Stanley Cup Finals; as well as the men’s hockey tournament (2006 and 2014 Olympic Winter Games). He was also part of the Toronto Blue Jays’ broadcast crew during their World Series championships in 1992 and 1993. In 2019, the Hockey Hall of Fame awarded Hughson the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster. Hughson is also a Canadian Screen Awards winner (winning four times) for Best Sports Play-by-Play Announcer.