It requires full sign-off from Vancouver Coastal Health, but the Canucks hope to have at least 5,000 fans in the building when hockey resumes next fall — and maybe more
The Vancouver Canucks had been preparing for Tuesday’s news from the provincial government that crowds will be back in the stands next fall for some time.
They’ve been in discussions with officials from Vancouver Coastal Health for months. They’ve had multiple reopening plans in the works, preparing for scenarios that call for limited crowds or full crowds.
Under B.C.’s restart plan, the earliest that sports stadiums could feature full capacity is Sept. 7, though that’s far from a certainty. The Canucks’ 2021-22 NHL season, of course, would start well after that.
It’s good news on their end, no doubt.
“The reopening plan outlined by Premier Horgan, Minister Dix, Minister Kahlon and Dr. Henry was very exciting and we can’t wait to welcome fans back at Rogers Arena in the fall, if everything goes to plan,” Canucks chief operating officer Trent Carroll said in an email. “We are continuing to prepare for all possibilities, including physically distanced plans and ultimately a full arena, whenever we receive the green light to safely do so. To help make that happen, we need to keep going and encourage all of our fans to register and get vaccinated if they haven’t already. Once we all do that, we can get back to together again for Canucks games, concerts, Warriors lacrosse and start to enjoy all of our entertainment aspects of our lives as we did before the pandemic.”
The team has plans that would accommodate at least 5,000 fans, spread out between suites, the upper and lower bowls, to begin with. The team hopes, of course, that by the time their season arrives, they’ll be able to have even more, perhaps even a full crowd.
Whatever crowd size they get approved for, the Canucks will have plenty of research to point to. Nearly two weeks ago, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said local public health officials were looking to see how the infection rate played out in the United Kingdom in the coming weeks, following its limited reopening of sports. Soccer’s FA Cup final, played 10 days ago, had a limited capacity crowd, for instance.
And the Canucks will surely be eyeing what’s gone on in New York City: In late March teams that play at Madison Square Garden — basketball’s Knicks and hockey’s Rangers— and the Barclays Center, home of the basketball Nets, were first allowed to admit fans into the building at just 10 per cent of capacity. So was Nassau County Coliseum on Long Island, home of hockey’s Islanders.
Fans had to provide proof of vaccination and they had to wear a mask.
Last week, New York state loosened those rules, allowing the arenas to host maskless, vaccinated fans in designated sections.
On Monday, the Knicks hosted their first playoff game in eight years and had 15,000 people on hand, 90 per cent of whom were fully vaccinated, the team said.
Ahead of their own playoff opener last Saturday, the Nets offered both testing and vaccinations to fans in a facility across the street from Barclays Center.