To say that fans of the Vancouver Canucks have had to put up with a lot of garbage since the team’s entry into the NHL in 1970, is a massive understatement. From embarrassingly bad (and even criminal) ownership, to inept management, and a league that has punished them with rules seemingly designed to keep them down, it’s not hard to see why Canucks fans have a serious issue with trust when it comes to the league.
When the Canucks announced that Adam Gaudette had been pulled off the ice mid-practice because he’d tested positive for COVID-19, I was scared, because it meant there was a real possibility there would be multiple infections. I don’t think that anyone saw nearly the entire team getting it, even as a worst case scenario. And we’re not gonna know for a while just how sick some of these guys are/were. But the report of some players needing IV treatments wasn’t encouraging.
What I also didn’t see happening, was the NHL also going with the worst case scenario from their end, when they announced that the Canucks would be returning to play, and would complete the entire 56 game season. And I will be honest, I am embarrassed that I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they wouldn’t do something this asinine, because at this point in my life, I really should know better.
And so here we are on Sunday, and the Canucks are opening their training facilities to prepare for Friday’s game against the Oilers. And then, we get this:
One day. That’s the response. Not “Given that the team continues to add additional players to the COVID protocol list, we are going to continue to keep them shut down until such a time that we can determine what to do to adjust the schedule and give them an appropriate amount of time to get healthy” or anything even resembling common sense, compassion or an acknowledgement of the science involved. No, it’s sticking to the plan, just with one less day to prepare.
What absolute utter garbage.
On the same weekend the league made the Oilers play the same day they had a memorial service for Colby Cave who tragically passed away last year. they’re literally rushing the organization back into action, and after being diagnosed with an illness that is increasingly showing to cause lingering effects both physically and mentally, making the Canucks play 19 games in 31 days.
Why are they so hell-bent to get these games in? It’s not that they’d be robbing the Canucks of a playoff spot, because they are all but mathematically eliminated from the post-season after that disastrous February run. And a team that has been consistently one of the most injury-plagued in the NHL every season, will now send guys who haven’t skated in a couple weeks onto the ice to play a ridiculous number of games, travel included.
If the Canucks can get out of this without a single player suffering some kind of long-term effect, it will be a miracle. My sister had the virus last year. She was extremely healthy with no health issues to speak of, and was a member of a running club, regularly doing 5k runs. She has not been able to return to running, and still is not feeling anything she would consider normal. If even one player finds themselves in a situation where they have diminished lung capacity, or any of the other myriad side effects that COVID can cause, it will be a serious blow to a team already struggling through a rebuild that is creeping towards a decade in length.
This was what everyone was worried about when the league and the players decided to not continue to use the bubble system, despite how great of a job it did in keeping the infections out and allowing play to continue uninterrupted. And it’s not like I don’t understand why the players weren’t willing to do it. It would be extremely hard to be away from your loved ones for that length of time. And it was their right to not want to have a longer bubble period than the one we saw for the playoffs. But if they think the playoffs will go as smoothly this time without the bubble, given the emergence of variant strains that are far more contagious, they are kidding themselves.
And yet, it’s not all on the NHL. The NHLPA has been absolutely silent throughout this process. I think it’s fair to question just what the hell they do in terms of looking after the best interests of the players, because they certainly don’t seem to do that here. They never seem to take issue with anything that sees members hurt. They don’t push the league for tougher enforcement of dirty hits. And now a team is being forced back into playing after nearly the entire team contracted this virus.
It doesn’t even matter if the players want to play. Sports is kind of funny like that, as we’ve seen numerous times where obviously injured players continue to try and “tough it out”, risking the longevity of their careers because of situation. But this isn’t the banged up Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. This is 2021, and the Canucks can’t even see the playoffs from where they are.
So I guess we’ll tune back in tomorrow, and the league will be thankful that trade deadline day will distract from any further potential bad news. And we’ll also try not to think about the Canucks basically not being able to make some trades that might help them clear up some cap space for next season. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, and it’s so bloody stupid that it has to be this way.