The Vancouver Canucks may have lost Tuesday’s home opener but the game still felt like a victory lap.
Rogers Arena was at 100% capacity for the first time since March 10, 2020, when the NHL season was halted due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. In order to be at full capacity, however, every fan in attendance was required to show proof of vaccination to get in, a policy that the vast majority of Canucks fans support.
The Canucks recognized frontline heroes at the ceremonial puck drop: police, firefighters, paramedics, nurses, teachers, and grocery store workers. Dr. Bonnie Henry was in attendance to sound the siren before the game.
When it came time to sing “O Canada,” Dr. Sadiq Abdulla from BC Women’s Hospital came out and gave a brief speech thanking the fans in attendance for “Doing your part in getting vaccinated, by wearing masks to help protect all British Columbians.”
As he said this, the Sportsnet cameras panned around the crowd, showing that many fans were not, in fact, wearing masks.
“Your dedication and perseverance have made a night like this possible,” continued Dr. Abdulla before inviting the entire crowd to sing “O Canada” together, as one.
It was a moving moment but it also felt a lot like back-patting. The victory lap might be a premature one, given that COVID-19 hospitalizations are the highest in B.C. since May.
The vast majority of those hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated, of course, and everyone at Rogers Arena was vaccinated.
Fans in attendance at Tuesday’s game have reported that their vaccine cards were not scanned as they entered the building. Instead, they were asked to show their vaccine card and photo ID to confirm that the name on the vaccine card matches their ID, a process the provincial government calls “visual verification.”
This is, unfortunately, ripe for abuse. Without scanning the QR code, a person with a fake or photoshopped vaccine card on their phone could easily get in.
A couple of respondents on Twitter said that their QR code was scanned, however. While not every fan had their vaccine card scanned, evidently some did.
According to the Canucks, it’s up to the discretion of each business as to whether they scan the vaccine card, do a visual verification, or a combination of both.
“The health and safety of our fans and staff is our top priority and we have worked closely with the Province and local health authorities to make sure all provincial Covid 19 protocols are being followed as we welcome fans back to Rogers Arena,” said Canucks President of Business Operations Michael Doyle in a statement.
“All fans and employees need to present their BC Vaccine Card and photo ID prior to entering Rogers Arena,” he added. “Under the provincial guidelines, businesses have the option of either using visual verification, or scanning the QR code on the Vaccine Card to confirm their guest’s proof of vaccine. We are following all guidelines as we begin welcoming fans back and the feedback at our first game has been extremely positive.”
One reason why they may not be scanning the QR code for every fan is the delay that might cause in entering the building. Some fans reported that the wait to enter was longer than usual, while others reported no issues in that regard.
A bigger concern may be that the mask mandate inside Rogers Arena was loosely enforced, if at all. While it was announced multiple times throughout the game that masks were required at all times, it came with a caveat: if a person is “actively” eating or drinking, they are not required to wear a mask.
Thus, any fan can avoid wearing a mask at the game by nursing a beer or two throughout the game. Dr. Henry herself was spotted on the television broadcast sans-mask with a drink in front of her.
While those vaccinated are less likely to contract COVID-19 and spread it to others, the vaccine isn’t 100% effective, which is why measures such as masks are still required. Hopefully, the lax mask policy and the decision not to scan all vaccine cards at Rogers Arena will not cause an outbreak.