VANCOUVER -- The last time the Vancouver Canucks played a home game, a lot of things were different.

Nearly 19,000 fans crammed into Rogers Arena on March 10, 2020, to watch the Canucks defeat the New York Islanders in a shootout before spilling out into the streets of downtown Vancouver, many of them grabbing a pint or a bite to eat before heading home.

Two days later, the NHL suspended the rest of its season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, the Canucks returned to Rogers Arena to take on the Montreal Canadiens, but the fans did not.

The changes that have taken place over the last 10 months made for a surreal scene outside the arena on game day.

"It's odd," said team volunteer Cal Traversy. "It really is odd."

A retired police officer, Traversy now helps with cleaning and COVID-19 protocol enforcement inside the Canucks' dressing room, a role that didn't exist a year ago.

“I get to be in the dressing room, helping set up, making sure all the things are clean and doing all the proper things in terms of social distancing, masks and gloves and stuff like that," he said.

Outside the arena, things are also strange.

Sports bars like Shark Club say they have seen a bump in business since the NHL began its COVID-19-realigned season, but it's not the same as having thousands of people descend on the downtown area for a game.

Grant Slatten, Shark Club's general manager, said there's usually a heightened "energy and competition in the room" when the Canucks play the Canadiens, but that only happens when the fans come out.

“We’re excited and optimistic and just hoping to get fans back in the building," Slatten said.  

With limits on capacity and the requirement that people only dine out with their immediate households, Shark Club has scaled back its operating hours as well.

“We were open for a lunch period before, but with most games being in the evening and with that being our dominant pull, we’ve decided to capitalize on that timeframe right now,” Slatten said.

He said the restaurant hopes to reopen for lunch soon, but is waiting for "the right timing" and an easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Allison Hurst