Canucks and Beyond

Reasons I Would Celebrate the Stanley Cup

06/01/2011 at 5:08pm EDT

On this opening day of the Stanley Cup Final, this was meant to be the place I dropped down my series preview, looking at the Canucks’ depth, the Bruins’ depth, their strengths and weakness (blah blah blah). But after writing it, I started thinking… who cares? At this point, we’ve read this stuff everywhere. For anyone looking, there are some great series breakdowns by my old friends at Nucks Misconduct or Canucks Corner or the Canucks Hockey Blog. And on many other Canucks blogs. So many great writers, all with educated and interesting reflections on this series.

But you know what else they have in common? They all have their whole hearts in this Stanley Cup Final. They care about this series right down to their bones, like a thousand (or a hundred thousand, or more…) other Vancouver Canucks fans. Like me.

I don’t know why the Stanley Cup matters to each of them, just like I don’t know why it matters to you. I’m not even 100% sure I understand why it matters to me sometimes—it seems so trivial in the broad scope of things in our lives.

But it does matter. It matters so much it makes us all a little bit nuts at times. It matters because even if we’re not all Canucks fans, we’re still all hockey fans.

As fans, throughout the season we all seem to fight with each other like siblings guarding our territory. But at the end of the day, the Stanley Cup is as good as it gets and I don’t think there’s a fan out there that doesn’t respect what it takes to get here. And every last one of us wants to see some great hockey.

I asked a friend of mine the other day which of the Stanley Cup Final games he was going to attend. He frequently travels to Vancouver throughout the season to catch games, and I figured his attendance at the SCF was a no-brainer. But I was wrong. Despite having that option, he’s elected to away from Rogers and watch the games at home. No big party or production, just a quiet family time.

And you know what? I totally get it. As Canucks fans, we’re in virtually uncharted territory. We’ve been cheering and excited as our team has navigated the difficult road to get to this final, but now that we’re there, we’re on completely foreign soil. It’s exciting and thrilling, but it’s also… scary.

Forget the first three series—this is the finals. Forget all that giddy excitement. Now it’s time to get serious.

The Stanley Cup is going to be in the building and the Canucks and Bruins will be playing in the presence of the world’s most revered and unique sporting trophy. For Canucks fans, that’s amazing and humbling in itself. Perhaps if you’re the fan of another team, a more historic and successful team, moments like this might not seem like a big deal. But if you’re a Canucks fan, you know what I’m talking about. This kind of awesome doesn’t happen to us. We’re always on the outside looking in.

But not today. It’s the Stanley Cup. And for one of the very few times in Vancouver’s history, it’s actually within reach.

Anyway, to get back to one of my points above, trying to understand what makes us so excited about a sports championship—something that seems like it shouldn’t matter so much, but somehow does—I thought I’d list out some of the reasons that would make winning the Stanley Cup so special to me. Perhaps you’ll agree with a few.

Reasons I Would Celebrate the Stanley Cup

How about…

...for all the electrifying players who ever wore a Canucks jersey. There’s many, many, many men who deserve mention here, but a few made a strong impression on me. Like Pavel Bure… what an astonishing player. Or Alexander Mogilny. 1995-2000 weren’t the greatest years for Canucks’ fandom, but I have some great memories of Mogilny. And then there was Markus Naslund, who could do some amazing wizardry with a flick of his wrist-shot. I remember attending a game he played against the Senators a number of years ago, and he skated end-to-end, then ran circles around the defense (literally, like three times, never losing the puck) before flicking that puck in the net as everyone in the building—including the Senators themselves, from the looks of things—watched him move, mesmerized.

...for the Brian Burke era. Much maligned by media and many fans, I will never quit being grateful for the team that Burke put together and kept together. And for all his many haters, I’ll include Marc Crawford here, too. The West Coast Express and the crazy, no-holds-barred offensive hockey that the team played back then to much criticism… well, you can’t deny it was damn exciting hockey, that era of “cardiac kids.” And while other teams’ fans moaned about long 82 game seasons, I can honestly say I thought that a good 65 games out of every year were no-holds-barred awesome for Canucks fans. Respect forever to guys like Mattias Ohlund, Ed Jovanovski, and others. Loved those guys.

...for the long-suffering Canucks media. At least, some of them. I mean, if I think I’ve suffered for this team, imagine what Jim Robson and Tommy Larscheid have been through! Seriously, as much as they deserve our endless criticism (hey, if they can dish it, they can take it) they also deserve our endless gratitude. There are far too many NHL markets where fans would KILL for the depth of coverage that Vancouver fans can take for granted all year round.

...for all the class acts that have been part of the Canucks’ history. Like Trevor Linden. No other player is more linked to our pride in being a Canucks fan. Our team has never been able to give us a Stanley Cup, but it gave us some remarkable players and role models, and Linden will always be in the forefront of that list. And then there’s greats like Orland Kurtenbach and Stan Smyl, coaches like Pat Quinn and Roger Neilson… The list of memorable characters and ‘good guys’ goes a mile long for me.

... for Luc Bourdon. For the player he was and the player he was becoming. And most importantly, for the man that was loved by a wonderful family who honoured every Canucks fan for letting us mourn with them shortly after his untimely death. As a result of that evening, I’ll never be able to listen to Tom Cochrane’s Big League ever again without tearing up.

And finally…

... for this team we have today. This entire roster. Like the Sedins—who have embodied class and decency despite being subject to withering and ridiculous criticism for years—and still continued to improve every season to emerge as the remarkable players they are today. Like Ryan Kesler who plays with so much heart, it’s amazing he has anything left of himself after every game. Like Alex Burrows… he was my first lockerroom interview in his very early days with the Canucks. What I remember about him from the very first season: I have never seen any player who I thought LOVED playing hockey as much as Burrows did. And I still see that in him today. He’s gone from a plucky energy guy all the way to being a star, and he deserves every accolade he gets as far as I’m concerned. And all the others… Salo, Bieksa, Luongo… for all of them, I hope they realize their dreams.

The Stanley Cup is one of the toughest things in the world to achieve. Whatever happens, I’ll always be a fan of the Canucks and of this spectacular season they’ve given us.

But yeah, the Cup would be nice… ;)

Go Canucks!!

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