Canucks in talks with Simon Fraser University to build practice facility on Burnaby campus

Photo credit:SFU Student Society
David Quadrelli
10 months ago
Shortly after the Vancouver Canucks hired him as their president, Jim Rutherford spoke about the club’s plans to finally build a practice rink. The Canucks and Calgary Flames are currently the only two NHL teams without one, and with the Flames now having a plan in motion for the construction of a new facility, that list might soon begin and end with the Canucks.
Or will it?
As the club continues to look for a location to house its practice facility, CanucksArmy has learned that Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini has met at least twice with Simon Fraser University president Joy Johnson about the potential for SFU to house the Canucks’ practice facility. CanucksArmy also confirmed with multiple sources that Aquilini attended the SFU Hockey Club fundraiser that took place earlier this year.
Individuals close to the situation have indicated that some of the SFU Athletic Department’s biggest donors are heavily in favour of bringing a Division 1 NCAA hockey program to the school. The school would need a place for their team to play, meaning the construction of a state-of-the-art facility on SFU’s Burnaby campus is something that both the Canucks and SFU would potentially benefit from.
SFU’s current club hockey team competes in the BC Intercollegiate Hockey League, but have also scheduled games against various U-Sports and Div. 1 NCAA opponents for this year, including UBC, the University of Michigan, and Boston University. The club’s home rink is in Burnaby’s Bill Copeland Sports Centre, ten minutes from the school. Bill Copeland previously housed the Burnaby Bulldogs and the Burnaby Express, both of the BCHL, but hasn’t had a high-level hockey tenant aside from the SFU club team since 2010. The facility is a bit outdated and isn’t up to NCAA Division 1 hockey standards, to say the least.
SFU announced the closure of their football program earlier this year, leaving the door wide open for the school to invest elsewhere in the Athletics department.
Many believe a big issue for the Canucks in their hunt for a practice facility to this point has been the price of securing land in Vancouver. An agreement with SFU where the Canucks either split the construction costs or are given the land for free if they agree to build the facility, could drastically lower the total cost for the NHL club.
As for the location: SFU’s Burnaby campus has an empty lot on the west side of the campus, near the university’s student residences. It’s just below Field 4 in the bottom left quadrant of the satellite photo below:
This article from Jeff Lee of the Vancouver Sun in 2006 outlines how SFU was almost the home of what eventually turned out to be the Richmond Olympic Oval for the 2010 Winter Olympics. SFU was long anticipated to be the home of the Oval, but the project moved to Richmond after costs ballooned over $78 million.
What you won’t find in that article, however, is that the land that the school was prepared to build the Oval on remains vacant to this day. Below is a photo from the website heritageburnaby.ca. It shows former SFU athletic director Wilf Wedmann holding up a rendering of the Olympic Speedskating Oval planned to be built on Burnaby Mountain following Vancouver’s successful bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics. According to the photo description provided by heritageburnaby.ca, Weddman stands at the Oval’s proposed location: in a field near the university’s residences.
Further, if you zoom in on the photo of the rendering of the Oval that Weddman is holding, you can see the already-constructed softball field to the east, the mountains to the north, and the road to the south, which is how we determined that this empty lot on SFU Burnaby’s southwest side was indeed the originally proposed location of what is now the Richmond Olympic Oval.
If the Canucks are going to build a practice facility on SFU’s Burnaby campus, it would almost certainly be constructed on this still-empty gravel lot, which has sometimes been used as extra parking by the university.
There’s little doubt that the Canucks have multiple potential locations in mind for their practice facility, but we now know that SFU’s Burnaby campus is one of them.

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