At Rogers Arena on Monday morning, the Canucks greatest fans were in the stands to witness the return of NHL hockey.
“My son and I are the biggest Canucks fans in the world,” said Shane Dueck, who sat in the front row near the corner with his young son and daughter.
“Maybe we’re the smallest but technically the biggest in the heart,” he said as Henrik Sedin stood inches away on the other side of the glass. “What better way to spend a Monday than watching the Canucks practise and shoot the puck around.”
The Vancouver hockey club will keep the doors open all week for fans to attend Canucks on-ice practices and scrimmages. A ticket is required for the Wednesday and Thursday night scrimmages, which begin at 6 p.m. The Canucks practice again Friday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Fans can enter Rogers Arena through Gate 3.
The Canucks called up 12 players from the Chicago Wolves and is desperately looking to cinch a first-line centre since Ryan Kesler is still injured.
Good thing for Shanyaa Assu, 17, who could be Jordan Schroeder’s greatest fan. She crafted a sign for the 22-year-old, 180-pound centre and easily lists his AHL score sheet of 100 points in 178 games.
She also has a sign for Kevin Connauton (it reads: “Connaut be tamed”) and third one for a genuine fan favourite and veteran defenceman.
“I’m Kevin Bieksa’s No. 1 fan,” said Assu, who regularly travels to Vancouver from Campbell River to have her braces tightened.
By 11 a.m. Monday, 300 spectators had passed through the gates at Rogers Arena to watch the Canucks. The crowd more than doubled in the next hour when star players took to the ice, including the two who generate the most talk in this city, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider.
Toronto Maple Leafs fan Steve Langford is not Luongo’s biggest fan and doesn’t want to see the former Canucks starting goaltender in net for his team.
Sitting with his brother, Peter, the two said they were happy to finally be watching professional hockey.
“It was their battle with the owners,” said Langford. “It’s not our battle, so be it. When hockey wasn’t there, I missed it. Now that it’s here and back again, I’m going to watch it.”
The Canucks open the compressed NHL season at home Jan. 19 against the Anaheim Ducks.