Patrick Johnston: More Vancouver Canucks leaders need to talk

Coach Travis Green has enough to deal with in handling questions about his team’s play on a daily basis. The voices of GM Jim Benning and owner Francesco Aquilini were particularly absent.

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It doesn’t always have to be Travis Green.


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It shouldn’t always be Travis Green.

And yet, in this crisis season 2021-22, for the Vancouver Hoods, it was almost always Travis Green.

The Canucks head coach, by the nature of his job, will always be available to the media.

His boss, the guy who pays his salary, should also be seen much more.

Just this week several requests were made by reporters from various stores, including this one, to speak with team general manager Jim Benning.

Since Wednesday morning, those requests have remained as simply “acknowledged”.

Of course, it is a crisis situation for Canadians. They had a terrible start to the season. Everyone outside the club is rightly combative.

It’s such a situation where the guy who built the team should talk to what he sees. There are just so many things the head coach and his players can say, after all.

And even if he didn’t meet the media in an open forum regularly, the Canucks ’GM would appear almost weekly on the team’s radio rights owner.

Brian Burke was the first to appear weekly, first on Dan Russell’s groundbreaking Sports Talk, the nightly must-listen radio show. Then he switched to CKNW’s Neil Macrae in the mornings.

His successor, Dave Nonis, continued to make weekly appearances, even as the team’s radio rights moved from CKNW to Team 1040. Mike Gillis took the torch after he was hired to replace Nonis, his appearances sometimes becoming combative sessions that continued to pull. ears.


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After Gillis was fired – apparently because the fans at Rogers Arena started whistling at him, but really because his relationship with owner Francesco Aquilini broke down because of how the owner believed the team should be steered – the duty of a weekly activist shifted to team president Trevor Linden. Mostly.

Once upon a time Benning would appear, but between him and Linden, the messaging would often become mixed and sometimes even contradictory.

When the newly founded Sportsnet 650 took away the rights in 2017, the tradition of the team’s senior hockey leader appearing weekly ceased. Linden would continue to appear reasonably frequently on air and was readily available to the media.

But since his departure in 2018, there has been less and less Benning. The GM has long shared his phone number freely, saying he wants reporters to be able to reach him to get the full story, but he has come to answer his phone less and less.

And that’s hardly what fans, let alone the media, should expect from the team’s senior leadership.

Fans spend their hard-earned cash. They are not just casual customers in this relationship. They should be able to know what’s going on with the team, know what the team itself believes.

And when there’s nothing out of the team’s brain faith, that’s just not enough.

Aquilini himself has not spoken to media since 2014, the day he hired Linden. He appeared on Sportsnet 650 almost every year and to the credit of the hosts at 650, they generally mixed up difficult questions during their discussions.


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That’s not the same thing as confronting a group of reporters who all have different ideas to bounce back from the people who make the decisions and spend the money.

Requests have been made on a regular basis to speak with Aquilini, who styles himself as the team president and is understood to speak with Benning on a daily basis, but those requests never go anywhere.

Instead, he chose to use social media to strengthen his voice and only does that when things are going well. He does not interact with fans, even to positive messages.

Social media isn’t going anywhere and so it’s obvious that it will be used for messaging, but it’s not a real forum for responsibility or conversation. The team used to hold sessions with season ticket holders, where the club’s most engaged fans could ask questions about the team’s leadership, but even before COVID-19 began, those events were heavily limited.

This year saw a COVID explosion in the team, a player accused of sexual assault and a terrible start to the season. In almost every case, it was Green who was introduced as the team’s spokesperson, and that’s just not good enough.

Fans deserve better. They deserve to be heard from the men making the biggest decisions.



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