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The team’s relocation had effects off the field, too, with sporting director and CEO Axel Schuster revealing it caused problems with recruiting, as players weren’t willing to come to a team that didn’t know where its home base would be.
That same uncertainty still exists for the Whitecaps. The league hopes to have camps start in mid-February, followed by a March kickoff to the season. But the COVID-19 numbers on both sides of the border have soared, and provinces and states alike are still struggling to distribute a vaccine to depress those numbers.
On Tuesday, the Canadian government extended its border closure until Feb. 21.
Garber put the league’s financial losses from the coronavirus pandemic at around $1 billion US, and with the same conditions facing the league in 2021, they invoked a force majeure clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, allowing them to renegotiate the terms. There are just 20 days remaining in the window before a potential lockout could ensue, and the players’ association — which publicly stated its anger with the league’s move — have yet to respond to the latest offer to freeze the CBA for two years.
“During the break, and you could see how COVID is impacting the other North American sports leagues and the soccer leagues around the world, as they are travelling out of the bubble. The domestic leagues, now they’re travelling around and playing regular-season games, and we’re seeing the impact of COVID on their ability to play,” said Garber. “And we’re all optimistic about the vaccine … but the reality is, as we sit here today, our country is setting records for COVID cases and, frankly, many of us are perhaps a little less optimistic than we even might have been several months ago.
“The continuing impact of COVID is having a really devastating effect on the lives of everyone here in the U.S. and around the world. It’s really impacting our league’s financial outlook for this upcoming season, and perhaps even our view of the years beyond 2021.”