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Photo Credit: YouTube.com/Canucks

Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini on the #FireBenning banner, last season, and the year ahead

Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini joined the People’s Show on Sportsnet 650 yesterday afternoon and touched on a number of topics in a nearly 30-minute in-studio interview.

Like many in this city, Aquilini said he wasn’t happy with the way things went last season.

“I was very disappointed, I mean, just as much as everybody else,” said Aquilini. “But you have to take everything into context. But what happened, you know the injuries and COVID — there are so many things — everything that could go wrong, went wrong. So last year we were kind of in survival mode. With COVID, we got most affected by any sports team in North America, I mean that’s crazy to think half of our team was out with COVID for two weeks, it’s insane.”

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“We didn’t get the success we wanted, but that’s behind us and I think this team is, is more indicative of the team that was in the bubble.”

It’s no secret that the lack of fans cost the league millions and the effects were certainly felt by the Canucks, who laid off over half their staff over the pandemic.

“It was really tough,” said Aquilini of last season. “There was no fans in the building, it was empty. We had to lay off people. People had families and mortgages to pay and it was really difficult. That was probably, in my business career — you know, been in business 40 years — that was probably the toughest year I’ve ever had to deal with. From the COVID protocols and the health issues, from laying people off and dealing with revenue challenges… We did the best we could, we went down to a very small group of employees and management. They did a hell of a job. I mean, those guys worked so hard, given what we had to deal with.”

That being said, the fact of the matter is that the Canucks have only made the playoffs twice since Jim Benning took over as general manager of the Canucks, and speculation arose last season that the organization was considering moving on from Benning.

That was, until Aquilini gave a public vote of confidence toward Benning and his management group on Twitter.

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“Jim has a vision of how to build this team,” said Aquilini. “I want to follow through with that. These things take time. I mean it’s not something that you can cut corners, or take shortcuts on. You can’t build a team through free agents, it just doesn’t work. I mean, what we’ve done is kind of drafted a lot of these young players and now they’re starting to come into their own and now we’ve got them under contract. All these guys we have are the right age, and so now, I mean, now is the point where we have to take the next step. You know, Jim has bolstered the lineup… Now’s the time to take the next step to move forward.”

It’s no secret that it’s playoffs or bust for the Canucks this year, and that was made even clearer by Aquilini yesterday, who said he’d be “really disappointed” if the club didn’t qualify for the postseason.

Aquilini also had some things to say about the “#FireBenning” banner that flew over metro Vancouver last season.

“I think that’s like a cheap shot. I think it’s no class. I think that people who do that have too much time on their hands. At the same time he has a family… Would you want to see your husband or your, your father getting hung out like that? I mean it’s just low budget, no class.”

You can listen to the full interview here.

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