Canucks and Beyond

"Bend it Like..." Sundin

12/30/2008 at 12:22pm EST

imageThe only thing missing from Mats Sundin’s arrival in Vancouver this week was a shot of Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham striking a pose for the cameras, and a few well-chosen celebrity guests on Entertainment Tonight sharing their excitement at the hero’s new gig on the west coast.

The local media is on an endless loop for the past 12-24 hours, working itself into a tizzy at the arrival of a new star in town. It doesn’t matter that he hasn’t played a game or even honored them with a sound bite. It’s still the Christmas season and The Second Coming has arrived—he just happens to be a bald, 37 year old Swedish guy.

And apparently a pretty good hockey player, too.

I was watching TSN last night, where they were documenting

David Beckham’s

errr… Sundin’s arrival, and with the constant camera flashes as he jumped into the backseat of some SUV, it looked very much like the king had arrived. Or a Hollywood starlet.

So what is all the fuss about?

Over the past six months, Vancouver has been fairly divided in their reaction to the $20 million offer made to Sundin last summer. Some loved it, some hated it, and some (like me) were a bit ambivalent—and known to change their minds a lot.

But from the moment Sundin agreed to the Vancouver deal 12 days ago, it seems like fans have rapidly come onside with the idea. They might not have liked it much at first, but the majority opinion seems to be that—and this is just my impression, not exactly scientific—“He’s ours now, so let’s see what he can do.”

But the air of celebrity in Vancouver is another thing all together. What makes the Sundin story so compelling? Is it just that he’s a great hockey player? That’s part of it, but I think it comes down to something else.

I think Mats Sundin validates the Vancouver psyche in some way.

If you think about it, how often, in recent memory, have Canucks fans seen their team land The Big One? Aside from Luongo, not very often. People don’t want to come to Vancouver, we’re told. Travel is tough in the west. The division is too tough.

It’s not New York.

And yet here he is. Motivated by a godly amount of cash, sure, but Mats Sundin chose Vancouver. And that has brought fresh enthusiasm to thousands of fans who, more often than we enjoy, are frequently left to feel like the ugly step-sister of the NHL. (Yes, we can be an insecure bunch.)

But Sundin picked us and to return the favor, it seems like Vancouver has decided to pick him.

Things may go south very fast for Sundin—Vancouver fans aren’t a patient bunch and he’s got a mountain to climb in the coming weeks as he reverts to game shape—but for now, he’s the Golden Boy.

The local media will keep flashing those cameras and fans will buy his jerseys because Sundin makes Vancouver feel like a winner. He laid his bets on us. Now Vancouver is betting on him.

How it all shakes out in the end is anybody’s guess.


P.S. I’ll be on CBC Radio One this morning at 7:40am PT, on the Early Edition. Tune in for more Sundin talk, if you’re up for it.

P.P.S. Apparently Sundin’s first skate with the team will be livestreamed at Canucks.com this morning—which gives you yet another clue about how crazy this whole thing has gotten in Vancouver. Also, his 12pm PT press conference is supposedly going to be streamed there as well.

Update 10:42am PT:
Something surreal about watching Sundin’s first skate with the Canucks, being livestreamed online right now. Sorta redefining the word “hype,” one downloaded MB at a time, isn’t it?

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