The company that owns the Vancouver Canucks has made the best of a bad situation, and donated truckloads of food to local charities after two games were postponed over the weekend.
The food — which was originally intended to feed about 37,000 hockey fans — risked going to waste. Instead, Canucks Sports and Entertainment donated it on Monday to the B.C. division of the Salvation Army and the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.
With the rapid rise in new COVID-19 cases tied to the Omicron variant in the province, the team's games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Arizona Coyotes were postponed, and two more games this week won't go ahead as planned.
"We've done this before, unfortunately when COVID first happened, so it wasn't our first rodeo," said Robert Bartley, executive chef with Canucks Sports and Entertainment.
Bartley oversaw the quick change of plans over the weekend, which included thousands of partially prepped meals being diverted to people in need.
Non-perishable items weren't part of the donation, but he said everything from crab legs and shrimp to pasta, bread and fresh produce was loaded into trucks from the two charities.
The shipment was a welcome surprise at the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.
"We got a few pallets of produce, we got some buns, we got some pre-cooked meals — things like hamburgers, hot dogs, mashed potatoes, green beans. Anything that would have been served at the Canucks games," said Alex Beyer, operations manager with the food bank. "It's all good stuff."
Beyer said his organization doesn't provide prepared meals for people, but they work with more than a hundred other charities that do — and they were happy and able to distribute the meals.
"It feels fantastic when that happens, when it all works out for us," he said.
For Bartley, the donation is a silver lining to a dark storm cloud.
"Maybe it's kind of a good blessing in disguise," he said of the sudden game postponements. "There's so many people out there that need to be fed, it's not a good story unfortunately — I wish nobody needed to be fed."
Bartley oversees meal preparation for 18,500 people at Rogers Arena on a regular game day, but during the pandemic, he and the organization shifted gears to package meals for people in need, producing about 5,000 per day for months.
Beyer said the food bank always keeps some extra capacity for last-minute donations like this — and they get them fairly often from companies that over-order, change plans or, as was the case during the recent flooding in the province, can't get shipments where they're supposed to go.
He said for individuals who want to help — and the need is greater this time of year — the most useful donation is cash. Beyer said cash donations allow the food bank to purchase the specific items they need, or cover costs like fuel and infrastructure.