Yet another game has been postponed for the Vancouver Canucks.
The Canucks were scheduled to play the Ottawa Senators on Saturday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver but that game has been postponed. It's the seventh Canucks game this season that has been postponed.
"The decision was made proactively following consultation between the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks and BC's Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry," said the Canucks in a statement.
"COVID-19 cases continue to increase at a rapid rate, and we all need to adjust and be flexible as the pandemic evolves," said Michael Doyle, president of business operations. "We hoped to play tomorrow, but we are at an important point of the pandemic, and given the size of the event, everyone involved believe this is the right decision. We thank everyone for their patience and understanding."
All of the postponements relate in some way to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic but for different reasons. A couple of games were postponed because both the Canucks and their opponents were in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak that took too many players out of the lineup. A couple of games were postponed ahead of the NHL's holiday break so that players wouldn't get stuck quarantining in the U.S. over Christmas.
Saturday's game against the Senators, like their game earlier this week against the New York Islanders that was also postponed, wasn't because of COVID-19 cases or travel concerns. Instead, the motivation is primarily financial.
"Due to current attendance restrictions in certain Canadian cities, two additional games will be rescheduled for dates later in the season when such restrictions may be eased or lifted," said the NHL in a statement on Friday regarding Saturday's game as well as a later game between the Senators and Winnipeg Jets.
Canucks games are currently at 50% capacity due to provincial health orders as the Omicron variant spreads through the province. The NHL has postponed multiple games across Canada because of similar capacity restrictions.
The concern, then, doesn't appear to be for player safety or worry that COVID-19 might spread among fans at games, but that teams would not make enough revenue at these games. For a Canucks team that has the players available to ice a full team, it rankles.
"It's a business, I think we all get that part. But yeah, when you've got a full healthy squad here, yeah, it gets frustrating," said Tanner Pearson.
The Canucks currently have six players in COVID protocol, including Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson, but are expecting to have Boeser available to play in their next game, as well as Philipp Di Giuseppe, and should have Justin Dowling and Jason Dickinson back soon as well.
"It just sucks, to be honest," said Pearson. "You practice all week and then you try to gear up for a game again and then now it gets postponed and now we have another what, five days 'til our next one? So, it's not ideal but I guess the way things are going right now."
After Saturday's game, the Canucks will go on a road trip until January 21, when they're scheduled to play the Florida Panthers in Vancouver. The current provincial health orders expire on January 18, so there is the possibility that capacity could be increased for the game on January 21. There is also the possibility that those restrictions could be extended, however.
"Maybe things could get worse here too and be at zero," said Pearson. "No one really knows what's going to happen."
It's particularly frustrating for the Canucks, who have had their momentum interrupted multiple times in the midst of their 8-0-1 run under head coach Bruce Boudreau. With so many days off between games, the team can not only lose their forward momentum but also their game legs.
"It's kind of like summer," said Pearson. "You can train all summer but until you're battling one-on-one in a corner or fighting for a puck battle, it's kind of hard to do the same thing, especially against your teammates so you've got to compete within yourselves when you practice and try to get the most out of it."
"We did a good job that last road trip — obviously, L.A. wasn't the way we wanted to play it but at least we were able to battle to get one point out of it — but now we're right back to square one," he added. "At least we've done it, so we can mentally prepare ourselves to grind away and get back in as soon as possible."