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Do the Canucks and Canadiens owe it to their fans to ice more veteran-laden rosters during preseason?

Over the past week there’s been some grumbling by the Vancouver and Montreal media over the Canucks and Canadiens not icing many of their veterans for most of their preseason games this month.

It’s apparent the respective coaches of these teams wish to devote most of that preseason playing time toward evaluating their prospects and “bubble player”. They also wish to allow many of their veterans (especially those who are recovering from off-ice surgeries) more time to rest, rather than risk reinjuring themselves in meaningless games.

These moves, however, haven’t sat well with some pundits in those cities, accusing the Canucks and Canadiens of “gouging” their fans,  charging expensive ticket prices to attend the preseason games but icing inferior rosters. They believe it’s more important for those two teams to give their fans more value for their money.

Most who purchased season tickets also have preseason tickets as part of their package, so they had no choice over paying for the latter. It certainly doesn’t seem right, but it’s part of the business of hockey.

Those individual fans who are fortunate enough to afford season tickets in this day and age, especially for Canucks and Canadiens games, who are among the league leaders in ticket prices, will just have to accept that as a necessary evil. If they don’t wish to attend preseason games, they could give away those tickets to family and/or friends who otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to watch those teams live. They probably would love the chance to see their favorite teams, even if it is just a preseason game.

Some of those season ticket packages were likely purchased by businesses, which they distribute to employees or clients. They can afford it, so no harm, no foul, just part of doing business.

As for folks who don’t have season ticket packages and plunk down big bucks to watch meaningless preseason games, nobody’s forcing them to do it, and those fans should know they’re probably going to see an inferior product if they go to those games.

Many die-hard fans probably don’t care about the quality of the preseason product. For them, it’s an opportunity to check out prospects and farm system players they might otherwise not see during the season. It’s a chance to see for themselves just how good these supposedly promising players really are, in a setting closely resembling NHL game action.

Most of those fans understand preseason is not a time for teams to worry about “entertaining” them, but rather for coaches evaluate their rosters, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and assess their prospects in NHL-game day situations, even if most of their opponents are doing pretty much the same thing as they are.

They’re not doing this to be jerks. They’re doing it so that they can ice a team worthy of the fans’ dollars during the regular season, when the games count. Especially those in the second half of the season, when the jockeying for playoff berths begins in earnest.

It simply makes more sense not to risk your best players, especially those who may be still recovering from  injuries, or in the case of the Canucks, coming off a shorter-than-usual off-season, to potentially serious injuries in nothing games, especially against young, hungry talent on opposing teams looking to make names for themselves.

Even if Canucks and Canadiens fans saw more veteran-laden rosters in preseason, there’s no guarantees their fans would’ve seen a better product.

That doesn’t mean the veteran players aren’t going to see playing time in preseason. Many of them do, often at their own behest, as they wish to use this time to tune up for the start of the season.

Yet there are also those who usually treat those games for what they are, meaningless contests, and won’t go all out in those games, saving their energies for the regular season.

During last year’s preseason, Canadiens goalie Carey Price played poorly in two games, earning boos from the fans and criticism from the local media.

Price was both bemused and annoyed, reminded fans it was merely preseason, and offered two words of advice: “Chill out”.

He went on to the best season of his career to date,  carrying the Habs to the playoffs, and within an overtime period of upsetting the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the first round.

Price’s advice remains relevant today.

If resting their veterans helps the Canucks and Canadiens have a stronger regular season, no one will remember in April that they spent good money on expensive tickets in September to watch a crappy preseason product.


  1. I was at one of the aforementioned “early pre-season” games for the Canucks (vs. Anaheim last weekend, a 4-1 loss) and although they only dressed a handful of veterans (Ballard, Alberts, Sturm) and a couple of fringe vets (Nolan, Fedoruk), I honestly didn’t mind it.

    We bought our tickets (good seats, too) from a friend of my wife’s who had season tickets (discounted since he couldn’t make it), knowing full well that the ‘Nucks weren’t going to dress a lineup anywhere near the regular season one. I think it’s important to keep in mind that a lot of longtime fans are really interested in seeing some of the young talent on their teams that may be competing for a roster spot this season. We lost the game, but I enjoyed watching our young guys — Hodgson, Schroeder, Jensen — play a solid game against a completely veteran-laden Anaheim lineup.

    It was fun and I’m not complaining about the price of admission. If you’re going to see a pre-season game, you should expect to see a bunch of young/fringe guys working hard to land a spot on the team. If you want the vets, save your money for the regular season. Pretty simple, really.

    (BTW, keep up the good work, Spec. Longtime reader, first time commenter. 😉

  2. It behooves all buyers to beware and anyone calling for more veteran presence in the preseason is not being reasonable given you don’t go to the pits to watch a crew work on a racecar if what you are really interested in seeing is the race itself. HOWEVER, if teams are going to continue to charge regular season price for preseason games, and from what I have read some season ticket packages included these games, then anyone paying or a ticket or refusing to pay for a ticket has the right to complain. You can charge what you want when you have a monopoly but that doesn’t mean you are not a greedy dirtbag.

  3. There are many in the Vancouver media who make copy by complaining, no matter what. They attacked Vigneault for setting Hodgson up to fail (which sounds like something an NHL coach would do, and do so by giving him 20 minutes a night). Once you’ve got an idea in your head, run with it. Any journalist can judge a player’s potential and progress better than any coach – because we can assume a coach holds petty grudges dear to his heart, the way a griping pundit does.
    Last year they were up in arms over the injuries that resulted from too many veterans playing too many games.

  4. If forced to choose between an “inferior” team in the preseason or an “inferior” team in the regular season, I think it’s pretty obvious what every true fan would pick. Preseason is meaningless for the vets. They’re not going to win scoring trophies, the games don’t represent points in the standings, and for the most part nobody actually cares about preseason except for the kids trying to crack the rosters and the coaching staffs trying to evaluate them against their teammates.

    Preseason certainly affects the fans, indirectly. If a team decides to play one player over the other, and the one player is a total bust where the other player goes on to have a career year in the minors, juniors, europe or wherever, because the Canucks decided to dress the Sedins instead of evaluating the other players, then the coaching staff is going to look pretty silly. We all know stars are supposed to have big years; they’re paid a lot and they’re expected to produce a lot… when it counts.

    The tl;dr summary: Preseason is not about the fans.