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Canucks taking their messages to the people

Vancouver Canucks president and general manager Mike Gillis says he will begin using Twitter to communicate with fans this season.

Gillis, whose club enters the 2010-11 NHL campaign with Stanley Cup expectations raging across British Columbia, said Canuck Nation wants to be engaged via Twitter, and that social media can be used to cultivate young fans. He also acknowledged that Twitter means he can communicate directly with the public, minus the traditional media filter that has occasionally frustrated him during two years atop the franchise.

"Social media is not something that is going to go away, and I think it's a way to get a little bit of a different perspective out there," Gillis said. "We'll test it out and see if it works."

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Twitter might become an important resource over the next fortnight when a couple of thorny issues - Roberto Luongo's captaincy, and Cody Hodgson's back - arise for Canucks management.

Luongo is scheduled to arrive in Vancouver next week for a long-awaited meeting with Gillis. The goaltender wondered whether the media demands of being captain were affecting his game after a second consecutive playoff loss to the Chicago Blackhawks last spring, and the Canucks have said they want to know whether he considers it a distraction.

For the moment, the ball is in Luongo's court. Ultimately, Gillis will decide.

"At the end of the day, it's always my call if I want something done with this team, or if I want a change made," he said.

The Canucks also replaced Luongo's preferred goaltending coach this summer, letting go Ian Clark because his outside business interests prevented him from serving in a full-time capacity. This summer, Luongo spent time in Florida working with Clark, and how he co-exists with new goalie coach Roland Melanson will be worth watching as the season progresses.

Gillis said the change was made without consulting Luongo, and with consideration to 24-year-old backup Cory Schneider, a former first-round draft pick who has hit a critical stage of his career and must establish himself as a bona fide NHL puck-stopper.

Meanwhile, Vancouver's other top prospect enters training camp with a clean slate, if not yet a clean bill of health.

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A rift developed last year when head coach Alain Vigneault suggested that Hodgson might be using a mysterious back injury to explain his poor performance in camp. The trust level eroded to the point where Gillis and assistant general manager Laurence Gilman travelled to Toronto in mid-season for an air-clearing session with Hodgson and his agent.

On Wednesday, Gillis acknowledged that Hodgson's injury was misdiagnosed as a bulging disc that did not require surgery and should have healed on its own. But that clearly wasn't the case come April, when the Canucks' golden boy was still bothered by stiffness after missing most of the 2009-10 season.

"It turns out that not only his doctors, but our doctors, were focused on a slightly bulging disc, when in reality, he had a torn muscle a little bit lower in his back," Gillis said. "I think every one, at that point, was really relieved. I know Cody was extremely relieved."

Hodgson, who tore the muscle doing twisting exercises, has arrived in Vancouver and will undergo a thorough medical evaluation on Thursday. Gillis said he has been working out three times a day, and is in much better shape to compete for a roster spot this season.

But he also cautioned that Hodgson may not hit the ice when the Canucks and four more NHL teams arrive in Penticton, B.C., this weekend for a rookie tournament. The Canucks GM said Hodgson would only participate if he is free of discomfort.

"We're going to put him on the ice when he's 100 per cent ready to go," he said.

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About the Author
B.C. sports correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Matthew spearheads the Globe's sports coverage in B.C., and spends most of his time with the NHL Canucks and CFL Lions. He has worked for four dailies and TSN since graduating from Carleton University's School of Journalism a decade ago, and has covered the Olympic Games, Super Bowls, Grey Cups, the Stanley Cup playoffs and the NBA Finals. More

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