The Vancouver Canucks franchise was in its second season the last time the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup. Tonight, they meet in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. History favours Vancouver as the home team – both on odds, and if you go by recent history, the home team has won every game so far this series.
The other day, one of my favourite sportswriters, Jonah Keri, wrote a piece called Why the Bruins Shouldn’t Win the Stanley Cup. This is a rare case where I disagree. The Bruins are the team anyone should want to win tonight. I’m going to respond to a few of Jonah’s arguments below.
(Full disclosure: I support the Bruins, and all Boston teams. And I’m also a proud Canadian).
No one in Canada wants you to win, of course. Not when a Canadian team might bring the Cup back home for the first time in 18 years.
Yes, this is the case for some Canadian fans, but it shouldn’t be. Also, many Canadians shudder at the thought of how boastful Canucks fans will be after their first Cup win. If you cheer for the Oilers or Flames during the regular season, why should you suddenly adopt their rival simply because they play in Canada? Does this prove we’re somehow superior at hockey because a team that is based in our country, but composed of players from several different nationalities, wins the Cup? Nonsense. We prove our mettle as a hockey nation by routinely winning international competitions. With Canadian born and bred players. Claiming national pride because of the Canucks is based on outdated concepts of nationalism, and as ridiculous as saying Spain is the best soccer country in the world because Barcelona just won the Champions League (on a technical point – they are the best because their national side is the defending Euro Cup and World Cup champion. Just like we’re the defending Olympic hockey champions).
Sure, Boston was once a suffering sports town.
Now? You sound like the douchebag who bitches that(…)
Meanwhile, the Canucks have existed for 41 years and haven’t won jack.
Sure, Boston has won in other sports, but many fans support the Bruins in the way they don’t for other local teams. It would be like saying “I don’t feel so bad for the Expos losing in the ’81 playoffs because the Habs just won 4 Cups in a row”.
Also, looking at their past experience, it’s clear that Boston fans have had it worse. Vancouver has 4 decades of middling management, with a couple of lucky runs involved. Boston has had good teams that couldn’t quite get over the hump, and in some cases lost in heartbreaking fashion.
In their first Stanley Cup finals appearance (1982), Vancouver had a losing record (and overall, 11th best out of 21 teams). They got swept by the New York Islanders, the 3rd of 4 consecutive Stanley Cups they would win. In their second appearance (1994), the Canucks were the 7th seed in the West, and made it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals before losing to the New York Rangers – who had the best record in the league that year. Neither result says “tortured” as much as it says the team overperformed, and ultimately probably didn’t deserve a better result.
Now compare that to the Bruins. They’ve appeared in 5 finals since, and respectively those teams finished the regular season in 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 4th, and 1st overall. Each time they were a worthy finalist, but couldn’t get over the hump against some of the best teams of all time – the ’75 Broad Street Bully Flyers, the Habs dynasty in ’77 and ’78 (the ’77 club is considered the best of all time) and the ’88 and ’90 Oilers – the ’88 version was Gretzky’s last year with the club, and the ’90 version had much of the dynasty still in tact, and Bill Ranford playing out of his mind in goal.
Now you want to talk torture? Two of their great players – Bobby Orr and Cam Neely – saw their careers cut short due to knee injuries. In Neely’s case, it was after a knee on knee hit from notorious cheap shot artist Ulf Samuelsson. How about the ’79 semi-final, where Game 7 against Montreal turned on a critical too many men on the ice penalty. How about last year’s playoffs, where they led Philly 3-0, lost Game 4 in overtime, then blew the series after also holding a 3-0 lead early in Game 7.
This Vancouver club had the best record in the regular season, but Boston was tied for 7th. Neither is in the final by fluke. You could argue this is the first time the Canucks had a club that legitimately could have expected to reach the final. Maybe they’ve suffered through 40 years of bad management, but so do many teams. This is nothing compared to what Bruins fans have endured.
Those cities have seen enormous sports heartbreak, their spirits deflated as they trudge through January blizzards waiting for their shot at the big one.
That quote is in reference to places like Minnesota, Winnipeg, and Buffalo. Some cities have truly endured heartbreak with their teams. Buffalo lost 4 Super Bowls in a row, when they probably had the better team at least twice. They lost the ’98 Cup final because Brett Hull kicked in the winning goal. Minnesota, the most hockey-mad state in the US, suffered through mediocre management of the North Stars, got lucky and made the final in ’91 (against a much better Penguins team, led by Mario), then watched the team move to Dallas just as Mike Modano was coming into his prime (they won the aforementioned ’98 Cup). In their first decade, the expansion Minnesota Wild have been nothing short of uninspiring.
No one will likely ever be tortured more than Cleveland fans, who came a game short of the Super Bowl twice in the ’80s, losing in such heartbreaking fashion that each game can be described in two words (The Drive and The Fumble), then watched a potential baseball dynasty break up in the ’90s (losing one World Series on a critical error by their 2B). This century? They only had the best athlete to play in Cleveland since Jim Brown break up with them on a nationally televised program.
What do Vancouver fans know about suffering? Maybe losing Game 7 at home, especially if it’s in heartbreaking fashion, will teach them what fans of other teams have gone through. Until that happens, the Vancouver Canucks will remain an unlikable, dirty hockey team. Seeing them win the Cup isn’t something anyone but the most hardcore Canucks fan should want to happen.
What’s so unlikeable about this Canucks club, you ask? I’ll leave the final word to Jonah:
This series should have reinforced pro-Bruins sentiment. Vancouver’s Alex Burrows biting Patrice Bergeron’s fingers was a punk move, one that would have been handled with a flurry of right hooks to the head if this were 30 years ago and the game hadn’t turned away from fighting. Maxim Lapierre’s Game 2 taunt, where he stuck his fingers in Bergeron’s face and dared him to bite back, wasn’t much better.
And there’s The Hit. Five minutes into Game 3, Aaron Rome lined up Nathan Horton, watched him get rid of the puck, took three strides, dipped his shoulder, leapt for the head, and blew him up. However you felt about the hit, you had to feel for Horton, laid out on the ice, his teammates and 17,565 spectators looking on in horror, medics fumbling with a stretcher, trying to stabilize the big Ontarian before the frantic ride to Mass General.