VANCOUVER – If all goes according to plan, the roof will be open at B.C. Place Stadium in March when the Vancouver Canucks host the Ottawa Senators in the Heritage Classic.
“If worse comes to worse and it needs to be a covered facility, it’ll be a covered facility,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Tuesday. “We hope that’s not the case.”
Given B.C. Place’s 59,841 seating capacity, Daly said he expects some tickets to be priced lower than usual Canucks games at Rogers Arena, but added that some will also be more expensive.
Meanwhile, Daly said the NHL is working with the players’ association and International Ice Hockey Federation to see what can be done to reduce insurance cost for Olympic teams’ summer orientation camps. Currently, the high cost of insurance is restricting Canadian and U.S. players to off-ice workouts.
Daly spoke to reporters before Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis and new head coach John Tortorella faced questions from fans at the NHL club’s annual summer summit.
Among the other topics discussed, Daly said the NHL will give strong consideration to the Pacific Northwest in the event of expansion or relocation, but declined to address Seattle specifically.
The city was considered a strong candidate for a potential move of the Phoenix Coyotes, who have resolved their arena-lease issues and are expected to stay in Arizona once the sale of the club is complete.
The league could look into possible expansion or other business growth after the sale closes.
“I think there’s a willingness to consider (expansion),” said Daly, who also added he expects the size of goaltenders’ equipment to be reduced this season.
Meanwhile, Gillis and Tortorella discussed the Canucks’ plans with fans heading into the 2013-14 season.
The club has been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs the last two seasons and has just one post-season victory since losing Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final to the Boston Bruins.
The lack of playoff success cost Alain Vigneault, the franchise’s all-time winningest coach, his job in May after the Canucks were swept by the San Jose Sharks.
Tortorella, fired by the New York Rangers after they were eliminated in the second round by Boston, was hired as Vigneault’s replacement, with the former Canucks coach taking over in the Big Apple.
Gillis’ choice of Tortorella as coach has been criticized, along with his handling of Vancouver’s goaltending situation, which resulted in Cory Schneider’s trade to the New Jersey Devils after the Canucks could not move Roberto Luongo and his mammoth contract.
Gillis defended his decision to trade Schneider and keep Luongo as the starting goaltender.
“We made our choice and our choice was to go with Roberto,” Gillis told the fan summit.
He met with Luongo in Florida recently and said the two had a positive conversation, indicating the goaltender is looking forward to returning to the Canucks after he spent the past year expecting to be dealt.
“It wasn’t strained or adversarial at all,” Gillis said.
The Vancouver GM has also come under fire for the team’s poor draft record under his watch. Only one Gillis draft choice, Cody Hodgson, now a member of the Buffalo Sabres as a result of a trade, has become a regular NHLer.
The Canucks will enter the 2013-14 season having won five straight Northwest Division titles, but Vancouver’s schedule will be more difficult in the new Pacific Division following NHL realignment.
Gillis will also have to contend with a reduced salary cap that drops to $64.2 million from $70.3 million.
He and Tortorella said they will give prospects a chance to make the club that has mostly established veterans.
“We have to,” said Gillis. “We don’t have a choice.”
Notes: Tortorella announced that the Canucks have hired Mike Sullivan and former Dallas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan as assistants. Sullivan spent four years as Tortorella’s assistant with the Rangers. Gulutzan spent the past two seasons at the Stars helm, missing the playoffs both seasons. He was a candidate for the head coaching position that went to Tortorella. … Former Canucks star Pavel Bure appeared at the summit and answers fans’ questions.