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Whitecaps prepare for Canucks to go to Game 7

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The Vancouver Whitecaps are making way for the Canucks’ playoff run… just in case.

The club announced Tuesday that the kickoff for the May match date against the New York Red Bulls has been moved up to 2:30 p.m. local time. The game was originally set for 4 p.m.

May 28 is also the scheduled date for Game 7 of the NHL’s Western Conference Final — if needed. Considering that the Canucks’ previous two series have gone seven and six, the Whitecaps are hedging their bets to make sure a date against the Red Bulls won’t be played in front of a half-empty stadium. That Game 7 is tentatively set for 5 p.m. local time (so it starts in prime time for those out east).

Still, a 2:30 start (and finish around 4:30 p.m.) still gives only about a half-hour buffer between the end of the soccer match and the faceoff of the hockey game. So, even with the move, a Canucks’ Game 7 would likely mean a lot of empty seats at Empire Field, which looks bad when Thierry Henry and co. are in town.

“With a number of exciting sporting events happening during that day, we looked to best accommodate our fans in order to support our team,” said Whitecaps FC chief executive officer Paul Barber in a release. “May 28th promises to be a thrilling day for sports fans and we look forward to having another vibrant atmosphere at Empire Field, as we welcome some of the biggest stars in Major League Soccer.”

When the Montreal Impact had home games go head-to-head against Canadiens’ playoff games earlier this year, fans stayed away from Stade Saputo to make sure they could catch all three periods of the Habs’ tilts. TSN and TSN2 didn’t air MLS games during the first two rounds of the NHL playoffs.

Canadian broadcasters and managers know that’s it’s futile to go up against the NHL juggernaut. The best thing for the Whitecaps is to hope that there isn’t a Game 7, while the Tampa Bay-Boston series goes long to ensure that the May 28 weekend isn’t needed for the opening of the Stanley Cup finals (if the Canucks win the West, that is).

TSN is set to air the May 28 game so the match change won’t conflict with any Blue Jays action on Sportsnet.

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