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NHL reportedly considering postponing two more Canucks games due to reduced capacity

Additionally, Justin Dowling has been added to the NHL's COVID protocol list.
Empty seats at Rogers Arena
With fans limited to 50% capacity in Vancouver, the NHL is reportedly considering postponing two Canucks games.

Earlier this week, the NHL announced that nine games in Canadian cities would be postponed.

This wasn't too surprising. The NHL has postponed dozens of games this season because of COVID-19, including five games this month for the Vancouver Canucks. What made these postponements unique, however, is that they were not because of players testing positive for COVID-19 and being held out of their respective lineups.

Instead, these games were postponed only because the Canadian cities hosting them placed restrictions on attendance for fans.

"Due to current attendance restrictions in certain Canadian cities, nine additional games will be rescheduled for dates later in the season when such restrictions may be eased or lifted," read a statement from the NHL

According to Elliotte Friedman, the same could happen to two Canucks games in January.

Rogers Arena is currently limited to 50% capacity because of provincial health restrictions. Because of the postponed games in December, the Canucks have yet to actually play any games with this reduced capacity. 

The next two home games for the Canucks are January 5 against the New York Islanders and January 8 against the Ottawa Senators. If those two games are postponed as Friedman suggested they might, the Canucks wouldn't play at home again until January 21.

While that does give some time for capacity restrictions to be lifted, it raises other concerns. The more games the NHL postpones, the more games they'll need to make up later in the season. With so many games needing to be rescheduled because of players testing positive for COVID-19, rescheduling games for other reasons seems foolhardy and risks not leaving enough room in the calendar to play a full 82-game schedule for each team.

What seems clear is that these decisions are not being made out of concern for the health of the players, team staff, or fans, but for financial reasons. 

Last season showed that teams can play in empty arenas, even if it's far from ideal. The NHL, however, is a gate-driven league — ticket sales represent a far greater portion of the NHL's revenue than other major sports leagues in North America.

That means teams are loath to give up any of that revenue. Last season's empty arenas were a necessity to even play a season at all — if teams can avoid empty arenas or even half-capacity arenas, they will do so at all costs. 

Meanwhile, players around the league keep testing positive for COVID-19, spreading it from team to team.

Dowling latest Canuck in COVID protocol

The Canucks already had two players and a staff member test positive for COVID-19 while on their current road trip. Brock Boeser and Phillip Di Giuseppe tested positive while in Anaheim and entered quarantine. 

Now those two will be joined in the NHL's COVID protocol by Justin Dowling, who tested positive on Thursday before the Canucks' game against the Los Angeles Kings. 

Dowling will need to quarantine in the U.S. for at least five days, at which point he can potentially test out of quarantine if he does not have any symptoms. That means he would potentially be available for the Canucks next home game on January 5, if that game is played as scheduled.