The Vancouver Canucks are coming home, their real home, next season.
After lots of uncertainty about how receptive the BC government would be to the NHL’s plan to stage games in home arenas next season, the league has announced that it has met the conditions from Provincial Health Authorities. That means that the Canucks will play home games at Rogers Arena for the first time since March, albeit without fans in attendance.
“On the basis of our discussions (with Provincial Health Authorities) in the past week, as well as our exchange of correspondence over the last 24 hours, we believe we are aligned and in agreement on the conditions on which each of our Canadian franchises can begin play in their own buildings for the start of the 2020-21 NHL season,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly in a statement on Thursday.
It was just three days ago that Health Minister Adrian Dix appeared a bit agitated when asked about the NHL’s proposal, pointing out that they were “extraordinarily busy right now,” but he did say the province would “take a look at it.”
When asked about the pressure to make a decision, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that “public messaging from the NHL gives the impression of pressure.”
On Saturday, a report surfaced that BC was “unwilling” to allow NHL teams to travel into the province for games.
Unlike last summer, the NHL will not be playing games in a bubble environment, although visiting teams will not be allowed to freely mingle in the community. Visiting players, coaches, and staff will be limited to their hotel and the arena, except for going for a walk outdoors at approved areas while wearing a mask. They will also be tested regularly for COVID-19.
The Canucks will play all their games within the newly-formed North Division, which consists of the league’s seven Canadian teams. The Canucks open the season in Edmonton with back-to-back games against the Oilers on January 13 and 14. Multiple games in a row against the same opponent will be commonplace next season, similar to a baseball schedule.
The first home game of the season is set for January 20, when the Canucks begin a three-game series against the Montreal Canadiens.
Training camp begins on January 3.