Whitecaps make big splash for Vancouver Aquarium by selling face masks

Bulls of the Week

Give credit where credit is due — after some bearish and slow-footed thinking on ticket refunds that drew the ire of this corner last week, Major League Baseball did the right thing this week and instructed its 30 teams to begin issuing refunds to ticket-buying fans for games lost so far during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sure, the “right thing” was probably expedited by a California lawsuit against MLB, its teams and both Ticketmaster and StubHub, but commissioner Rob Manfred ensured the potentially ugly PR nightmare to come was nipped at the bud.

Also credit MLB for some of the thinking it is bringing to salvaging the 2020 season, including the possibility of league and divisional realignment to simplify the logistics around playing games during the summer and fall months of the novel coronavirus crisis.

North of the border, it was another productive week for Olympian and Hockey Hall of Famer Hayley Wickenheiser, whose hands-on leadership and support of Conquer COVID-19 has made a national campaign out of local drives collecting Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health care workers spread thin during the pandemic.

Thanks largely to Wickenheiser’s advocacy as a fourth-year medical student — and former captain of Canada’s women’s national hockey team and now assistant director of player development for the Toronto Maple Leafs — the Conquer COVID-19campaign has visited more than 108 communities across the country, including Ottawa, Toronto and Surrey last weekend.

The PPE drives continue in Ottawa this weekend.

Yet there’s been no more bullish organization in professional sport this week than the Vancouver Whitecaps. In less than two weeks, the Major League Soccer club has produced and sold more than 90,000 Whitecaps-branded face masks in a fundraising campaign in support of the Vancouver Aquarium, which is one of Canada’s longest-standing tourist, educational and research destinations.

The campaign has raised almost $2 million for the aquarium, which will need every penny to keep on feeding and caring for the 70,000-plus sea animals living there.

Particularly impressive is the roll-up-the-sleeves, can-do style of new Whitecaps CEO Mark Pannes, a veteran of big league stints with the New York Knicks of the NBA and AS Roma of Serie A. Moreover, the Whitecaps’ front office is making the aquarium happen in the middle of a half dozen new content initiatives at whitecapsfc.com, all designed to keep the club connected to its fan base without the opportunity to play games.

Bears of the Week

Through no fault of its own, the Canadian Football League is in trouble. And we’re not talking about the problems associated with rebuilding sustainable season ticket bases in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, something that has been a challenge for the Alouettes, Argonauts and B.C. Lions for the past several years.

We’re talking about the difficulties associated with its pitch to the federal government for emergency bailouts of anywhere from $30 million to $150 million.

The CFL is Canadiana. Yet it’s a difficult proposition with six privately-owned, well-capitalized franchises and just three community-owned clubs. Taxpayer money to support multibillion-dollar juggernauts such as Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment is a hard sell when there is — and will be — so much pressure on public health, education and other social programs.

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