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Vancouver Canucks broadcaster recalls day the NHL went dark

Last Updated Mar 12, 2021 at 11:17 am PDT

The Vancouver Canucks play the New York Islanders at Rogers Arena on March 10, 2020. (Chris Wahl, NEWS 1130 Photo)

NHL temporarily halted its season on March 12, 2020 over COVID-19 concerns

Vancouver Canucks broadcaster says there was sense of uncertainty around NHL after NBA paused season last year

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s been a full year since the National Hockey League temporarily closed its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bubbles, testing, and empty buildings are all familiar to us now, but March 12, 2020 is unforgettable for those around the NHL who experienced it.

Brendan Batchelor is the Canucks radio play-by-play broadcaster on Sportsnet 650 and was with the team in Arizona preparing for a game while being quite unsure of what the future held.

“I can remember standing outside the rink in Arizona with a few other media members, sort of speculating as to what might happen and not really knowing what to do,” Batchelor said.

The night before, Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert’s positive COVID-19 test prompted the shutdown of the National Basketball Association. Batchelor figured that morning the NHL would soon follow suit.

“I remember checking my phone in the morning and the morning skates had been cancelled around the league, and at that point you got a pretty good idea that games would not be happening,” he added.

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Once the shutdown was made official, the team still had to get home from Phoenix.

“The Canucks had to organize getting a flight back to Vancouver. We didn’t fly out until about 6 o’clock in the evening, so I had a very quiet afternoon in Arizona,” Batchelor said.

The traveling party was ushered into quarantine upon their return to Canada.

In all, the NHL was paused for more than three months before successfully completing the 2019-20 season in empty buildings in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles.

The NHL’s Deputy Commissioner, Bill Daly, figures the league won’t truly be back to normal until its arenas are full of fans. That hasn’t happened in Vancouver since March 10 of last year, when the Canucks defeated the New York Islanders 5-4 in a shootout.

“The key for us at some point in time, for normalcy, is being able to host fans in our buildings, not in limited numbers but in large numbers,” Daly said Thursday. “The world keeps changing, we’ll change with it. Hopefully that happens sooner rather than later.”

The Canucks next action south of the border will be in June at the earliest if the team makes the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The NHL and Canadian government continue to discuss just how to make that work.

“We are in the process of engaging with respect to the playoffs,” Daly said. “We’ve got a little bit of time to deal with this. I believe there will be a process and I certainly can’t promise any result.

“We’ll work through the process, see what the result is, and respond appropriately,” he added.

Rogers Sports & Media is the parent company of Sportsnet 650 and this station.