Lockout costs Canucks some season ticket holders but not 'significant amount,' says GM Mike Gillis
VANCOUVER - Not everyone remained a part of Vancouver Canuck Nation during the NHL lockout.
General manager Mike Gillis revealed Sunday that some season ticket holders have cancelled their packages with the team. Gillis stressed the number was small and refused to disclose it despite some prodding. The Canucks have sold out for 407 consecutive games.
“As far as season ticket cancellations, yes we have had some,” Gillis said on a conference call with Vancouver reporters. “It is not a significant amount based on where this team is positioned but, you know, it is an indication that some fans were not happy with the process and they expressed their viewpoint by cancelling. But it wasn't a number that would cause us to be overly concerned other than the fact that any fan of the Canucks who feels compelled to cancel season tickets is a concern of ours.”
Asked for a more specific cancellation figure, Gillis replied: “That's an internal number and not for public disclosure.”
Gillis did announce the Canucks have some fan initiatives in place but, again, was short on specifics, saying the team wanted to keep it a surprise.
“I'm just looking forward to trying to reward our fans who have been incredibly loyal, and to the sponsors and community partners and all those people who have been waiting for hockey to get started,” he said. “We need to thank them. We respect and admire their loyalty.
“I'm hopeful that some specific things we're trying to plan for opening night, depending on when that is, and throughout the season are going to entertain the fans as best we can,” Gillis continued. “We do have a lot of plans I'd like to keep to ourselves so that people will be excited and energized and fully supportive of the team.”
The Canuck GM also gave a spirited defence of the organization and why he felt fans should stick with them. This was the third lengthy lockout since the 1994-95 season and second since 2004-05 when the entire campaign was washed out.
“I can't speak for other places but here in Vancouver, yeah, games were missed but this team does a lot of other things that benefit the community in multiple ways,” Gillis explained. “Our team and community partners raise millions of dollars for a variety of extremely worthy causes. That's a reflection of the character of the people involved from ownerships through to players and I don't think that should be lost sight of because of a commercial agreement that took longer than anybody wanted. I'm hopeful our fans will continue to recognize that and look at the bigger picture.”
Meanwhile, Canuck defenceman Kevin Bieksa doesn't think conditioning will be an issue, at least not for the players who have been working out regularly in Vancouver during the lockout. The main six lately have been Bieksa, the Sedin twins, Manny Malhotra, Dan Hamhuis and Chris Higgins. Cory Schneider was a member of the group until leaving in December to play in Switzerland, where he appeared in eight games.
“All the guys out here, I think we're ready for training camp,” Bieksa said prior to Sunday morning's announcement. “We've been working out hard, biking hard, running steps hard. We've been doing this for four months. I think we're ready.”
Daniel Sedin, who missed 12 games (including playoffs) with a late-season concussion, is fairly certain he's fine after experiencing no symptoms during the lockout.
“Only games can tell you but I feel confident,” Daniel said. “I played two playoff games and that was no problem. I've been working out and skating and I don't really think about it anymore. So I think that's good.”
Reaction from around the league to Sunday's tentative agreement poured in from many quarters. San Jose Sharks defenceman Douglas Murray, a member of the NHLPA's bargaining committee, was happy with the length of the new CBA – 10 years with a mutual opt-out after eight.
“The only winning part of this is we're playing again and players, owners and fans, especially, won't have to deal with this for another eight years, maybe 10,” Murray told the Mercury News. “I understand they're frustrated. I think we've been frustrated through this and the frustration is shared. But it's their money and they get to decide what to do. I really hope they're ready to forgive."
Anaheim Ducks' veteran Teemu Selanne, who has been through all three Gary Bettman-led lockouts, just wanted to move on.
“I think everybody is very excited and very happy it's over,” said Selanne, 42. “It's something you don't want to go through again. Hopefully we can move on and be a hockey family again and play the greatest game on earth.”
“I just want to thank all the fans for their support during the lockout,” added Chicago Blackhawk forward Jamal Mayers, “I am glad we were able to save season.”
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