It’s been a slow start for the Vancouver Whitecaps. We’re almost at the halfway point in the regular season and the Caps are outside the playoffs. Vancouver welcomes Colorado Rapids to BC Place later this month needing the win. The sides around them have matches to play and Vancouver can’t risk losing ground. Will they rise to the challenge or will head coach Marc Dos Santos miss out on the playoffs in his first season?
It was clear that things needed to change last season. Head coach Carl Robinson had been in charge of the Vancouver Whitecaps for almost five years. First appointed in 2013, the former Wales international was originally an assistant at the BC Place but soon got the top job.
It started well for Robinson. There was a steady improvement in the side during his first two years which culminated in a trophy. Victory in the 2015 Canadian Championship was a memorable one. While an MLS Play-Off semifinal appearance capped a memorable season.
But Robinson’s tenure endured a rough spell. The 2016 season was a poor one and while things improved a year later, the writing was on the wall. The eighth-place finish in the 2018 Western Conference proved too much for chairman John Furlong. Robinson and a number of coaches were released and Vancouver started a rebuild.
The Canadian Marc Dos Santos was appointed in November 2018. The following months saw an enormous rebuild of the playing squad with dozens of incomings and outgoings. The biggest loss, of course, was Alphonso Davies – perhaps the best Whitecaps player since Pedro Moarles. The 18-year-old winger departed for Bayern Munich with Vancouver receiving a €10 million fee, the second-highest of any MLS transfer.
It was always going to be tough rebuilding the team. Lucas Venuto, Jasser Khemiri, and In-beom Hwang were the biggest signings in the reconstruction while Fredy Montero was brought in to add some goals. Player turnover is normal in the MLS but the changes at Vancouver were extraordinary. Doneil Henry was the only player to play in Carl Robinson’s final MLS match and Marc Dos Santos’ first.
That amount of change tends to have a negative effect on teams. That proved accurate at BC Place as the Caps got off to a woeful start. It was three consecutive defeats in their opening MLS matches as Vancouver had to wait until matchday 7 for its first win. Hwang got the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Los Angeles FC in a match which proved to be a turning point. So far, it was on their only defeat this season.
Since then, Vancouver has been improving. Some solid ties and wins over Colorado, Portland, and FC Dallas followed. Now, the Caps are in ninth place in the Western Conference on 18 points. One win could put them as high as fifth with the top seven teams heading for the postseason.
A postseason would make for an impressive first year for Dos Santos. Yahoo expert Andy Edwards predicted a twelfth-place for the Caps back in March. The opening few matches suggested as much but since then, things have improved. The Caps are now looking upwards but are in for a tough race to reach the postseason.
It looks like five teams will be battling for three playoff places when the time comes. The Caps are at the bottom of the pack in that respect but will still have to be wary of what’s behind. Last season’s conference champions Sporting Kansas City is going through its own regeneration. But the Wizards can easily close the three-point gap on Whitecaps with one of its two games in hand.
Indeed, the games in hand could certainly hurt the Whitecaps. Vancouver has played more matches than every side below them in the conference standings. Eleventh-place Portland Timbers has three more matches to play than Dos Santos’ side and four points to gain on them. In a repeat of last season’s conference semifinals, Timbers will take on Seattle Sounders next. Portland came out on top then and are 5/4 to do so again on Betway as of 12 June.
Vancouver Whitecaps will be hoping that doesn’t happen. After a troubling start, it’s been a promising few weeks for Vancouver Whitecaps and Marc Dos Santos. The Caps have lost just one of their last seven MLS matches but will have to wait a while for their next. As we approach the halfway point in the regular season, the Whitecaps are very much in the mix for a spot in the playoffs. That would constitute an impressive debut year for Dos Santos following the major roster reconstruction in the off-season.
Canada Is Starting to Show Its Strength In Sports Aside From Hockey
It’s no surprise that Canada has been seeing a lot of victories in sports other than hockey. From the Toronto Raptors winning the 2019 NBA championship, tennis champion Bianca Andreescu winning the US Open in 2019 and the women’s soccer and basketball team qualifying for the 2020 summer olympics.
2019 was a great year for Canadian sports franchises and athletes. It was the year that the world got the opportunity to see how great Canadian athletes are and how sports in Canada is on the rise.
It was also the year the world got the chance to see how Canada is beginning to make more opportunities for the growth of other sports.
Canada is known for the game of ice hockey and hockey will always be the heart of the country, it’s a sport that brings many people together.
But as time goes by, more sports options need to be made available.
The people want to see a more diverse range of sports and they want to see their fellow Canadians succeeding in it.
Take soccer and basketball for example, these sports aren’t as big in Canada and while Canada does have various MLS leagues, it’s not as big as the leagues in South America and Europe.
Even with basketball, Canada only has one NBA team and although it’s a very talented team, it wasn’t until the Raptors won the championship that the rest of the world saw how talented the team is.
“I think it’s a huge deal that we see success in sports like [soccer, tennis and basketball] because when kids … see success like that at the national level, it gets them really excited about sports,” says Beverly Wake, sports journalist and KPU instructor .
“We’ve seen participation rates in basketball in particular in Toronto really climb as the Raptors have been successful. And in tennis, since Milos Raunic and Eugenie Bouchard… they started having success on the pro circuit,” says Wake. “so you see the success of a Raunic, … Bouchard…, now we have Bianca Andreescu too, last year winning the US Open, and I think we’ll continue to see tennis participation rates rise as well because they’re role models for kids, they see what’s possible through them.” she adds.
Wake also mentions the Toronto Raptors team and how successful they’ve been in the past years and their recent franchise record of 15 straight wins. This is also the best for any Canadian sports franchise.
Although not a lot of Canadian athletes take up the roster space, it’s still a Canadian based team.
The success from the Canadian sports team is clearly inspiring for many Canadians who are watching, especially the kids who enjoy sports and hope to play professionally in the future.
“We’ve been known as a hockey country for so long around the world and that’s … a hard stereotype to shake, but I think we’re starting to be seen as a country that actually has athletes that are really good at a lot of sports,” Wake says.
She goes on to highlight great Canadian athletes like Bianca Andreescu, Brooke Henderson, and the great team of women who qualified for Soccer and [basketball] at the summer olympics.
The important thing to note is that this is only a small amount of the great athletes and sports championships Canada has to offer, as time goes by the championships and athletes will increase and spread into other sports.
Celebrity Sledge Hockey Game at Surrey’s newest arena
Featuring Hayley Wickenheiser and the Humboldt Broncos’ Ryan Straschnitzki
Surrey, BC – Today, over 500 fans gathered at the North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex today for a celebrity sledge hockey game, hosted by Hayley Wickenheiser and Humboldt Broncos’ Ryan Straschnitzki, during Canadian Tire WickFest. Prior to the puck drop, the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) announced that the new facility has achieved RHF Certified Gold, being the first arena in Canada to receive this designation.
“This certification illustrates our commitment to investing in facilities and programs that are accessible for everyone,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “Today’s celebrity sledge hockey game was a great example of how sport brings people together, regardless of ability. It was fantastic to see the community come together to celebrate this significant achievement during WickFest. I want to personally thank the Rick Hansen Foundation for recognizing that Surrey is working diligently to continually improve universal access across our city.”
This year’s tournament marked WickFest’s second year in Surrey, which expanded from 800 young female athletes to 1500, as a result of the increased capacity for ice and meeting space at the new North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex. The crowds cheered as Wickenheiser and local celebrities faced off in a friendly game of sledge hockey with Humboldt Broncos’ Ryan Straschnitzki, who is training to make Canada’s Para-ice hockey team for the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.
“WickFest is more than a hockey tournament,” said Hayley Wickenheiser. “Our vision is to develop our players for their lives on and off the ice, through workshops and unique experiences, like this celebrity sledge hockey game. I know that our young players left with a better understanding of why inclusion and accessibility in sport is so important, which will inspire more understanding throughout our communities. Surrey is certainly leading the way in accessibility, and I congratulate them in this significant achievement with the Rick Hansen Foundation.”
Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility CertificationTM (RHFAC) rates sites on several criteria which look at the various needs of individuals with disabilities affecting their mobility, vision and hearing. The City of Surrey has 43 rated civic facilities, including 29 that have been RHF Accessibility Certified, and five that have achieved RHF Accessibility Certified Gold.
“Congratulations to the City of Surrey on achieving Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certified Gold for the North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex. Sport is a mirror to how we view ourselves. Regardless of physical ability, everyone should have an opportunity to participate in sport. This is the fifth site in the City of Surrey to achieve Gold certification, and I hope it will inspire communities across the country to continue to set the bar higher!” Rick Hansen, Founder, Rick Hansen Foundation.
The City of Surrey offers a variety of adapted programs and services. Para Ice Hockey sleds and equipment are available at both the Surrey Sport and Leisure Complex and North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex, allowing everyone to participate in public skates and programs. The para ice hockey program is just one of the programs and services that the City of Surrey offers to make the community inclusive and accessible for everyone.
For more information on Surrey’s adapted programs, click here.
For a special video message from Rick Hansen, click here.
Nav Bhatia Visits to Promote FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament Tickets
TICKETS ON SALE FOR VICTORIA FIBA OLYMPIC QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT
Team Canada to face #7 ranked Greece in opening matchup
Canada Basketball has announced that ticket packages for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments 2020 hosted in Victoria, B.C. that went on sale on Friday, January 31st. The tournament runs June 23 – June 28 and the winner of the tournament will qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games. Nav Bhatia, Canada Basketball Community Ambassador and Official Toronto Raptors Superfan was in Vancouver promoting these nine- ticket packages that can be purchased online through https://selectyourtickets.com/event-pro/fiba-olympic-qualifying-tournament-2020/ or in-person at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre box office (1925 Blanshard Street, Victoria B.C).
Single game tickets will be available at a later date.
Canada will face Greece and China in Group A, while Uruguay, Czech Republic and Turkey have been drawn into Group B.
Each team will play the other two teams in its own group (two games for each team). The top two teams in each group will advance to the semifinals. The two semifinal winners will advance to the winner-takes-all final for the remaining Olympic spot.
All games will be played at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre – tip-off times will be announced soon.
Nine-game ticket packages range from $270.00 CAD ($30.00 CAD per game) plus service charges to $1,350.00 CAD ($150.00 CAD per game) plus service charges. Two dollars CAD from each ticket is dedicated to the tournament’s not-for-profit legacy fund to be reinvested in the promotion of sport development, social, cultural, economic and community development enhancements in Victoria and across the Capital Region.
Canada is looking to return to the Olympics for the first time since 2000.
Detailed event information, including game times, community celebrations, and volunteer information will be announced in the coming weeks. To stay up to date with event news and information, please follow @canadabasketball on Facebook and @CanBball on Twitter.
Group A – Game 1: Greece versus Canada
Group B – Game 2: Uruguay versus Turkey
Group A – Game 3: Canada versus China
Group B – Game 4: Turkey versus Czech Republic
Group A – Game 5: China versus Greece
Group B – Game 6: Czech Republic versus Uruguay
Game 7: Semifinal game #1 (1st A versus 2nd B)
Game 8: Semifinal game #2 (1st B versus 2nd A)
Final: (Winner Game 7 versus Winner Game 8) with winner advancing to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (July 24 – August 9, 2020)
In addition to Canada (Victoria), the National Federations of Croatia (Split), Lithuania (Kaunas) and Serbia (Belgrade) will also host FIBA Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournaments.
What to Expect from the Canucks in 2020
Hockey season is well and truly underway with a new year meaning the mid-season madness is setting in. For all teams across the two conferences, this will mean deciding
to either readjust their tactics, experiment with new ones or continue tried and tested plays in order to see success come June.
The Vancouver Canucks, a team who face this very dilemma, sit fourth in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference in the NHL, having won 25 of their 47 games so far.
Going into 2020, the stakes for the postseason picks and who will make the playoffs will begin to heat up. Outlets like William Hill’s Hockey betting will be offering exciting odds for teams like the Canucks who, given their run of form, might just be a dark horse pick for anyone willing to back them.
Necessary changes made
After a poor start to the season, the Canucks found their form just before Christmas and are hoping they can continue that way in order to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015. They’ve spent a significant portion of their available money to add quality and experience to the side, resulting in a notable step up in character where it matters and besting some top teams so far this season.
While the Canucks are the highest scorers in their division with 155 goals overall, it’s the individuals making the assists that are really powering the team forward and up the Pacific Division.
Quinn Hughes, who signed a contract with Vancouver in March of last year, has been an astounding surprise for NHL fans everywhere. The 20-year-old defenseman has bagged himself 27 assists in the 44 games he’s appeared in and will surely be a standout rookie to watching heading into this new decade.
Towards the end of the season, whether the Canucks make the playoffs or not, there will be important decisions to be made by manager Jim Benning. With the February trade window just around the corner, there is the question of whether older heads like Christopher Tanev, who achieved his 100th career NHL point back in October, will be traded for younger players to maximise potential in the ever-tightening cap space.
Both Canucks fans and NHL punters will be sure to keep in mind that, with almost half of the season to go, anything can happen. Vancouver is sitting pretty at the top of the West Conference Wildcard Division and despite their improved form, they may just need to rely on the wildcard opportunity for a chance at postseason.
Jim Benning has made significant progress with his time since his appointment in 2014, but the Canucks remain an unpredictable force. In the first half of the season, they won 3 out of 4 possible points against the St. Louis Blues and beat the Vegas Golden Knights, but were blitzed by the Chicago Blackhawks and blew a three-goal lead to lose to the Penguins in Pittsburgh.
It’s safe to say that the Vancouver Canucks aren’t safe from faltering but given their excellent roster of players both young and experienced, they have all of the capability to continue their Christmas form and aim high for the rest of the season.
North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex Hosts Official Grand Opening
Surrey, BC – The North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex marked its official grand opening today, with a community event attracting over 500 guests to the state-of-the-art facility in the Bridgeview community. The celebration included free skating and rentals, access to the fitness centre, family entertainment and an artist talk with Katzie Nation artist Trenton Pierre.
“The North Surrey area of our city has long been underserved when it comes to having recreational facilities and programs close at hand,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “With the opening of this new complex, that all changes and I invite everyone to take the opportunity to visit and make full use of this state-of-the-art facility. This new complex is also an illustration of how Surrey is combining thoughtful and advanced design to ensure that our spaces provide accessibility for all ages and ability levels. The City of Surrey is continually pressing forward as one of Canada’s most accessible and livable cities, offering recreational opportunities for everyone.”
The North Surrey Sport & Ice Complex features three sheets of ice, spectatorship opportunities for large-scale events, a state-of-the-art fitness studio and weight room, outdoor activity areas, multi-purpose room programming, rentals and food services. First Nation artist Trenton Pierre’s public artwork, Guardian Spirits, wraps the building exterior, which is mirrored inside the facility from the windows of the modern fitness studio.
Accessibility features include:
- Level access to the ice from dry surface, built to para ice hockey standards
- Players boxes and penalty boxes made of clear lexan, instead of regular puck board, allowing para ice hockey players a clear view from their sledges
- Removable benches in the players boxes, allowing for para ice hockey players to remain in their sledges when off the ice
- Universal hook heights and depths of benches in dressing rooms
- Fully accessible change rooms, referee rooms, sound room, multi-purpose and fitness studios
- Fully accessible washrooms
- Vehicle drop-off area accommodates side-loading vans
Utilizing the three sheets of ice, large-scale spectatorship seating capacity and meeting rooms at the new facility, Surrey will host Olympic Gold Medalist Hayley Wickenheiser’s WickFest Tournament from January 30 to February 2, 2020. This is the tournament’s second year in Surrey, which has now expanded from hosting 800 young female athletes to 1500, as a result of North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex’s increased capacity for ice and meeting space.
Click here for a message from Hayley Wickenheiser about WickFest 2020 at the North Surrey Sport and Ice Complex.
For more information, visit surrey.ca/arenas
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