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‘Calgary Canucks’ keep loading up, not Josh-ing when they landed Leivo


The truth is, there already is a team called the Calgary Canucks (courtesy of the Alberta Junior Hockey League), but you can understand why people were making that nickname a joke over the weekend after Josh Leivo became the third player who wore blue and green in 2019-20 to sign on with the red and yellow Calgary Flames for the 2020-21 season.

The handy winger signed a one-year, $875,000 deal with the Flames. He fractured his knee cap Dec. 19 against Vegas and only got back on the ice in August.

In the 36 games he did suit up for the Canucks last season, he showed himself to be the kind of forward the Canucks needed, playing smart, gritty hockey and showing a nose for the net.

He was just the kind of forward you want on your second or third line. The Canucks did make an offer to Leivo for his return, but he also heard a lot from the likes of Jacob Markstrom and Chris Tanev, the two Canucks who made the leap across the Rockies earlier this month, as well as from prospective teammates Sean Monahan and Mark Giordano, with whom he has worked out in the off-season in the past.

There were strong big-picture arguments, in the end, for the Canucks walking away from Markstrom and Tanev who were true dressing-room and on-ice leaders for the Canucks. They are both on the wrong side of 30 and one should be cautious handing out long-term deals to players of that ilk; just look at Loui Eriksson for a lesson on those risks.

Leivo, though, feels different. Odd, even. This is a player who didn’t have a lot of leverage, given the flat cap and the question marks prompted by him looking to come back from a difficult injury.

The Canucks need to find efficiencies in their lineup, Leivo, you’d think, would have been a great option. His performance before his injury suggested he’d be a slam-dunk to return; the fact he’s returning from injury means he’s now a player with upside, but one that you figure will be a very good bet to return to form.

Leivo told the Calgary Sun that the Flames afforded him an opportunity to play as a scorer . Surely that would have been the case in Vancouver, too, especially with the loss of Tyler Toffoli?

Well, the “Calgary Canucks” indeed. That’s a narrative you’ve got to think Vancouver’s Canucks will be looking to make disappear.


Podkolzin’s demotion

Vasili Podkolzin’s ice time with the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg has evaporated in recent weeks, to the point where he was a healthy scratch. It’s been a whirlwind six weeks for the 19-year-old winger.

SKA had been hit with a COVID-19 outbreak last month, which Podkolzin somehow managed to avoid. With half the roster out of action dealing with the virus, the 19-year-old’s ice time shot through the roof.

His production, though, didn’t. He has just one goal and three assists in 18 games. And with the team healthy again, it’s been a struggle for Podkolzin to find ice time.

This is a deep squad and Russian hockey usually doesn’t give young players much ice time as it is. And now Podkolzin finds himself skating for SKA’s VHL team, which is to the KHL what the AHL is to the NHL.

TSN’s Rick Dhaliwal tracked down SKA’s general manager Roman Rotenberg , who told him that the demotion was about two things: They wanted to see Podkolzin work harder but they also knew he needed ice time to get ready for upcoming Russia Under-20 action.

Podkolzin, many expect, will be named captain of the Russian team that is skating in the upcoming Karjala Cup in Finland and also for the world juniors, which are scheduled to begin in late December in Alberta.


A fourth jersey?

Reportedly, the NHL is going to unveil fourth jerseys — “Reverse Retro” is said to be the theme — for teams across the league. Details on four jerseys — for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Vegas Golden Knights and Anaheim Ducks — have surfaced and been reported on over the past week by the hockey uniforms website Icethetics .

The rumoured rationale is that sales of the new jerseys will offset revenue losses due to the cancellation of the 2021 Winter Classic and 2021 All-Star weekend, which the NHL announced last week. Both events were scheduled for January 2021.

If the Canucks are involved in this fourth jersey program — and there’s no reason to think they aren’t — they’re keeping quiet. They tweaked their home and away jerseys last season, of course, removing the all-caps “VANCOUVER” that arched over the Orca C logo and created a new third jersey, which features a green/blue on white “stick in rink” logo and has dark green stripes on the arms and a white collar.

They also wore the black skate throwback uniform three times last season, but have previously said it’s not returning in 2020-21.

More 50/50

Since the pandemic threw a wrench into public life in mid-March, the Canucks For Kids Fund has managed to run some very popular 50/50 campaigns.

Even though it’s still the off-season, on Monday it announced a new $1-million raffle , this time with proceeds supporting the Canucks Autism Network.

Since March, the network has run 14 virtual programs on a roughly weekly schedule, allowing participants to do activities like watching pre-recorded videos, engage live via Zoom, play virtual hockey, participate in movement activities and watch movies with friends.

The team plans to run a number of other 50/50 draws over the coming months to support its community partners, many of which have not been able to run their customary fundraising events like casino nights or golf tournaments.

Over the past months, the various 50/50 campaigns run by the Canucks have raised $3,652,213 for local charities.

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