Thursday, June 16, 2011

Canucks vs. Bruins. Game seven debriefing from a disappointed fan, and some Chris Pronger hate

I'm writing this while I still have the gross taste of tequila in my mouth: the barkeep at Yaletown gave free tequila shots to Vancouver fans after the team went down with barely a whimper, 4-0 in game 4.

I consider myself lucky: I moved out of the Southern Ontario region when I was 14. One or two more years there, and I would have formed a lifelong bond of loyalty with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and if you know anything about their history since NHL expansion, that's like putting your hand into the grab-bag of "hobbies for life" and pulling out "putting tabasco sauce in your eyes."

So compared to that, being a Vancouver Canucks fan ain't half bad.

And Vancouver fans are lucky, too: no matter how much heartbreak they go through as sports fans, they still live in Vancouver, for the most part, so they've got that going for them. They can go work out their frustration with a long walk along the seawall, or on a bike trail, or this winter at Whistler, or by taking a drive up and down Vancouver Island. Or chill out by smoking some of the best weed in the world... decriminalized. It's not a hard life. Better than being an Edmonton fan if the Oilers are sucking, when the only thing to do is ride your dogsled team down refinery lane. (That's an exaggeration.) And let's not even get started on places like Detroit or Cleveland.

I'm a Vancouver Canucks fan. Definitely. Been rooting for them, hard, all through these playoffs.

So here are a few thoughts:

1. Boston has had a friggin' INCREDIBLE sports decade: they've had a championship in all 4 major sports. If I were a 15 year-old Bostonian, somebody would have to pull me aside and warn me, "It's not always going to be like this."

2. Boston has lost five consecutive Stanley Cup finals heading into this one: running into a dynasty, a juggernaut or a transcendent player who would not be denied, each time: The Broad Street Bullies, the '70s Canadiens, the Gretzky and then Messier Oilers were their last opponents. The only Hockey team that's been snakebitten more are the Philadelphia Flyers.

3. It hurts me to say it, but Vancouver did not deserve to win this year's Stanley Cup. Not the way they played in Boston. Not with a goalie who got pulled twice in the finals. Not with the Sedins and Ryan Kesler all going silent during the finals. Not with all the biting, barking, and gamesmanship they partook in. Not after taking Boston's top goal-scorer out of the series. This series was a lesson in class and sports karma. Sorry to say it, Vancouver. Comport yourselves better next year, and try again.

4. Tim Thomas deserved to win. I don't know about the rest of the Bruins, but Tim Thomas did something incredible these playoffs, and my hat's off to him.  Did he have a single weak game?  He also gave Vancouver and Roberto Luongo respect in his postgame interview (though not in the pre-game shootaround). He is officially in my good books, and I'll root for him any time he's not up against Team Canada, the Canucks, or a Canadian team. The most memorable moment of these finals was probably when he bodychecked a Sedin in front of the net. He owned, pure and simple.

5. Even if Vancouver HAD won, Luongo and the Sedins still would have faced question marks, given the way they played in the finals. If your superheroes don't step up, what did you think was going to happen?

6. I can never feel TOO bad when an Original Six hockey team wins a championship. That's good for hockey's heritage in the long run.

My hockey rooting hierarchy goes like this:
A. Canucks

B. Other Canadian Teams (in this order: Calgary [until Iginla retires/moves; then they'll move back into a tie with...] Edmonton, Leafs/Canadiens [tie] Senators/Winnipugs)

C. Original Six Teams (Red Wings, Blackhawks, Bruins, Rangers, in that order)

D. Hard luck teams that have earned some success by going through a lot of heartbreak [Flyers, San Jose Sharks, with the caveat below]; also: great players who have never won the cup can fit in here. I rooted for Ray Bourque... though not every player who jumps to a contender gets this free pass: sometimes they're front-runners and I root against them [see also: James, LeBron].)

E. The U.S. Teams my favorite Canadian players are playing on [Crosby's Penguins, Sakic's Avalanche and Yzerman's Red Wings as examples].

F. U.S. teams playing an interesting, exciting style of hockey, and whose existence predates 1990s expansion, and who have cool, knowledgeable fans.

And the teams I actively root against:
G. Sun belt teams. Hockey doesn't belong in Nashville, Atlanta, or Florida. California deserves one team, not three. Maybe two, if the fans are loyal and knowledgeable. I was SO choked when a Florida team took the cup from Calgary, and then a Carolina team took it from Edmonton, and then a California team took it from Ottawa, three finals in a row.  I get conflicted when Canadian players dominate on sun-belt teams (Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks, and Carolina Hurricanes' cup wins were cases of this; currently, the San Jose Sharks stir up mixed feelings in me) - why can't those boys bring their talents (and the cup) back home?  At least Vancouver lost to an original six team, and not to the Phoenix Coyotes, who stole their team from Winnipeg, or the Orlando WhyDoWeHaveATeamHere's, or the Mexico City Chinchillas.

H. Teams that stole their franchises from Canada. Now that Sakic's not with the Avalanche, I wish them nothing but ill for stealing a team from Quebec City. Wayne Gretzky is diminished in my mind for taking part in Phoenix, a team stolen from Winnipeg. To a lesser degree, this also goes for the Dallas Stars, who stole their team from Minnesota, a state that deserves hockey. This one is mitigated by the fact Minnesota has a team again; I MIGHT forgive Phoenix if Winnipeg gets another team... but probably not Gretzky.

and most of all...

I. Whichever team Chris Pronger is playing for. I hate that guy, and I want to see his team lose. Every time I see him in a game (except when he's on Team Canada) I root for him to get injured in the most embarrassing way possible - to tear an ACL because his skate hits a groove in the ice, or to lose a fight to somebody half his size and break his cheekbone, or to break his hip while scoring an own goal - I friggin' hate that guy. Ever since he sold Edmonton out the offseason after they reached the finals, moved to California, and helped beat the Senators for the cup the next season, with his defection sending the Oilers (always a team I've liked) on a spiral from which they haven't yet recovered.

7. Canadian teams are now on a 5 finals losing streak: Since the Canadiens won in 1993, it's been Vancouver '94, Flames '04, Oilers '06, Senators '07 and Canucks '11. This is unfriggingbelievable. Next thing you know the Leafs are going to make the finals just so they can get their stomachs punched, too.

8. Vancouver's fans stayed in the arena to cheer for the champs after the game. Classy of them. Especially compared to Miami's fans, who were filing out of the arena with five minutes left in game six of the Heat/Mavericks final.

9. WHAT ON EARTH HAPPENED TO THE RESILIENT TEAM THAT BEAT NASHVILLE AND SAN JOSE? Weren't, like, all the games in the second and third round come from behind wins? How did the team become so mentally brittle once they made the finals? Can't come from behind? Can't play a good road game? WTF, Vancouver?

10. I hope the Bruins have an escape route planned, that takes them directly from the arena to the airport. Sounds like things are getting a little rowdy in Vancouver.

It was a good season, and a great run. It's too bad things shook out how they did, and Vancouver embarrassed themselves in the finals, both on the ice, and in the press conferences. If I were Vancouver's coach, I'd demand all my players do a Mark Cuban next playoffs.  I'm sad Vancouver lost, but I'm glad they didn't win like this, and I hope they can pull something even better (and classier) together next season, before their window closes...

OK. I'm finished. I feel (a little) better now.

Great run. Here's to next season.


melissa v. said...

Yeah, I agree with you wrt the Bruins deserving this one. I'd have been embarrassed if we won, because it would have felt like a fake. And yeah, the heat is on in Vancouver. Dozens of car fires, talks of calling in the army, every window smashed in the down town core, ambulances refusing calls because of danger to themselves, I just saw a stabbing victim loaded into an ambulance on CTV. I predicted this: repeat 1994 if we lose in town. Boo. Lose well: keep some face!

Todd T said...

Good piece.

Not sure if this means anything, but check out the nationalities of Boston's team...

John from Daejeon said...

#8. Vancouver's fans stayed in the arena to cheer for the champs after the game. Classy of them.

Real classy. They were making plans for their rioting.

Thanks the gods that no one in the U.S. really cares about frozen soccer. Couldn't even get 2% of the population to tune into the deciding 7th

Roboseyo said...

Oh yeah. that's the other sucky thing about the 'Nucks loss:

any attempt to look for an upside, from anyone other than canucks fans, is met with either a barb about the riots (which were a few anuses, not all of vancouver: nobody bothers to talk about the thousands of civic minded nuckers who are now out cleaning up vancouver's streets, when a few hundred people were acing like douches last night), the canucks' choke job, or the irrelevance of hockey.

John from Daejeon said...

Sorry, if I only directed the irrelevancy at hockey when it should be directed at all sports as there are much, much, more important things in this world to be rioting, and getting all worked up, about. Free universal education through college/university for starters is a far off dream when so many on this planet don’t have adequate amounts of food, drinking water, shelter, or health care; however, there are billions of dollars, Euros, pounds, etc., to be thrown away on sports. How on Earth can Tiger Woods be worth $1,000,000,000 just because he is good at an absolutely useless game? It’s not like he is saving lives or inventing new technologies to make our lives easier while lovers of this “sport” pour tons of water on all that grass that could go instead to producing crops for those suffering without food all around our planet.

Hell, the U.S. economy is hanging on by a thread, but we have more people worried about whether or not there will be an NFL season instead of tightening their belts and coming up with solutions to this massive problem that faces more countries than just the U.S. Just think about how little old Greece is upsetting the markets, now think about those same markets if the U.S. goes under.

Yeah, but we have our sand (sports, hobbies, work, etc.) to put our heads in so we can ignore the bigger picture burning to the ground around us.

I’m not a total killjoy, I still do enjoy sports, but I spend my hard earned money on watching people who play for the love of the game (high school and amateur events) and not just for the money, especially as many of those games can easily be fixed if the money is right. How would you feel down the road when you find out that your heroes threw a game or two or were doping?

It’s just too bad that we can’t get our acts together were it really matters!

Roboseyo said...

I think that's exactly why sports work, John:

sports nationalism pulls a population together without its leaders actually having to act for the benefit of the people.

sports lets us determine our level of involvement, without ever making us feel guilty for not giving more. unlike a lot of other causes where I could put my time...

some of the theorists I've been reading this semester, talking about modernization and "advancement" suggest that the ultimate goal of advancement in capitalist societies is consumption... I'd argue that it's leisure, and sports is the most common vehicle for that (for males).

Roboseyo said...

btw the thing about relevance of hockey wasn't directed at you; it's one I got from somebody else.

Anonymous said...

It could be worse -- at least you're not a Maple Leafs fan.

Roboseyo said...


Agreed. The Maple Leafs are the Chicago Cubs of Hockey, except with angst and self-loathing instead of low expectations.

I followed the leafs for two years (92 and 93 - Doug Gilmour's best years) before heading for Vancouver, and I'm glad I dodged that bullet.

audacity said...

Rob, you are too lucky.
My Maple Leaf heart sinks every single season. I get false hope and then...
You are too, too lucky Rob.

John from Daejeon said...

"I think that's exactly why sports work, John:"

You definitely have some valid points, but sports also marginalizes a lot of people out there that don't care one iota about simple games that shouldn't be used for nationalistic purposes (especially if the losers are executed for loss of face--North Korea) when there are much more important life and death matters to attend to on the home front, those that nature did not make in the molds of Greek athletes that are always picked last (i.e. nerds), and over half the human population (females) who don't have the same representation on our big TV screens in pro sporting events. The last one is truly sad when it comes to all those dads who can't communicate with their daughters because they weren't born boys and able to play sports.