Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a seven-part series here on Jet City Ice, providing you with a guide to the Pacific Division teams, those that our beloved Seattle franchise will see most frequently during the season.
My feelings about the Vancouver Canucks were always going to be riddled with pain and internal conflict.
My brother-in-law (the one they call Mister Wright) is a Canucks fan. One of his Christmas gifts early on was a barbecue spatula with the team logo on it. Yeah, we all went a long way into the outer darkness of sports merch-hell that year to make sure his moose burger was styling.
One of the series I cut my hockey teeth on was in the 1993 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the Smythe Division finals, the Canucks faced off against the Los Angeles Kings in the last year of the Campbell Conference (what that jizz mopper Gary Bettman has more eloquently retitled, “The West”).
Residing at the time in Portland, the 1992-93 NHL playoffs were a ray-of-light-through-stained-glass revelation. I had a 13-inch color television in my bedroom AND it was the first year that hockey was on TV all the time, but also BEFORE ESPN came along. Talk about Halcyon days.
Yeah, we’re talking about my most grandiose “Mom’s basement” moment, but screw you, it was an awesome set-up.
The Canucks had just beaten the Winnipeg Jets in six games (on a hella controversial goal by Greg Adams — hey Manitoba, totally a high stick ) before facing off against the Los Angeles Kings. Those silver and black assholes had a whole kitchen full of stars. Coffey and Kurri, McSorely and Robitaille and some dude named Wayne Douglas Gretzky (I’m sure I’m leaving out another batch of dudes, too, like Darryl Sydor and Rob Blake). They were also coached by the suave, Monsieur Mullet, Barry Melrose.
That Canucks team was as gritty AF. The names are totally badass. Peter Nedved. Trevor Linden. Cliff-effing-Ronning. They had one of the Courtnalls and Kirk McLean. They had Pavel Bure (who I adored so much, I named every D&D character after him for years).
I was totally pro-Vancouver in that series. As a dyed-in-the-wool Portland Trailblazers fan, my molten hatred of Los Angeles was in full force. My scathing vitriol for the Lakers was enough to root on ten teams in ten sports. If LA had had a cricket team, I would have hated them too.
Vancouver was poised to vanquish our better looking bastard brothers to the south in a way that Portland had not. Nay, in a way they could not.
Of course, here is a bulletin for you: the Canucks lost that series. After winning game one 5-2, Vancouver simply could not get any momentum. They lost the next two games in a row. They fell especially hard after losing game five in double OT on home ice on a goal by someone named Gary Shuchuk who had thirteen career goals and I assume was a totally nice guy.
Los Angeles went on to beat Toronto in the Campbell Conference Finals, before losing to Montreal, the last Canadian team to win a championship.
The next year, Vancouver got out of the “West” and played the New York Rangers in the fabled, “Now I can die in peace” Stanley Cup final. If you’ve forgotten (and really, how could you) it was the series that finally returned Lord Stanley to Madison Square Garden for the first time in a generation. Personal trivia, I watched that game while sipping a Shirley Temple in an Atlanta Bennigans (another weirder and far lamer story).
After that, the Canucks blew up their core of players and drifted off to the wastelands of hockey mediocrity for more than a decade.
So, why should you hate the Canucks?
For one, get out a map. Vancouver is your closest geographical rival. So, for that reason alone, hate away because I’ll be damned if Robert Frost was wrong when he said that good fences make good neighbors.
The second and most important reason though, is that the Canucks have been atop the Pacific Northwest hockey food chain for decades… and they have never won the God damn Stanley Cup.
It’s all right there. Go and look it up on, Wikipedia, your sacred font of internet information. I’ll wait.
The Canucks have lost to New York twice (the first time in 1982 to one of the dynastic Islanders team). They’ve lost to Boston more recently in 2011, blowing a 2-0 and 3-2 series lead. [INSERT BY OVERLORD TIM: They also lost to Chicago in 2010 on their way to unmatched hockey glory].
The Pacific Northwest is as much a region as it is a collection of two, three or four states (depending on your particular geographical view). I think you’ll agree that in the Pacific Northwest we understand, that we’re going to identify with one team in each professional sport.
The Mariners are our baseball team.
Don’t agree? Get on a Bolt Bus in Portland on the morning of a Seattle home game and see how many people travel for baseball.
The Seahawks are the football team from Alaska all the way to the Oregon/California border, and east all the way to the Rockies.
Portland Trailblazer game crowds are always peppered with Sonics refugees (by the way, fuck David Stern, too — I hate commissioners).
Vancouver has had four good shots [INSERT BY OVERLORD TIM: Five shots, they also lost to the Blackhawks in 2010, did I mention that?] at bringing a Stanley Cup to the Pacific Northwest. They have had bad ass, D&D character name worthy players. They’ve had teams you can fucking root for while eating your artistically charred moose burger.
Those teams have all choked though.
Seattle, prepare thyself for the short drive north across the border. It will be on a cold day coming soon. You will root lustily for your INSERT TEAM NAME to beat the snot out of Canucks. You will yell louder because they’re the closest. It’s because they’re like your unfashionable older brother (who has better healthcare, SADFACE).
Scream yourself hoarse, because, damn it, there still lies a clear path through to Pacific Northwest hockey glory and it cuts through Vancouver.