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Perhaps because for all our bluster about hockey being woven into the country's national fabric, most of our teams play as though they're new to it. Come April, there are typically only a few Canadian clubs to rally around.
The Canucks are one, but it won't happen. You've heard this already, but it's true that this group will never be "Canada's team," at least not in the traditional sense.
Rather than support the back-to-back Presidents' Trophy winners from coast to coast as the country's best hope to win a Cup, many in the country have instead chosen to root for their ultimate destruction.
Now, the hatred isn't unanimous. According to a Maclean's poll, the Leafs, not the Canucks, are Canada's most hated team (although I would suggest the numbers are skewed by asking non-hockey fans. After Alberta, the province that hates the Canucks the most is British Columbia. More than anything, this poll suggests that the only hockey property the country will ever back unanimously is Wayne Gretzky).
But the poll also suggests that, with only 35 percent of the national fan support, more people in the country will be rooting against the Canucks than for them.
The Canucks have become Canada's anti-team.
Now, let's get the nonsense out of the way. This has nothing to do with geography or climate, and the people pushing this lazy and recycled line of rhetoric only out themselves as woefully closed-minded.
It's funny. A large part of Canada's identity is the belief (generally mistaken) that we're more progressive than our neighbors to the south. And then columnists claim that having an oceanic rather than alpine climate somehow excludes you from Canadianness, even though the United States manages to hold itself together despite representation from both those climates, as well as humid subtropical, arid, desert, tropical rainforest and subarctic climates, among others. It makes Canada seem a little behind when it comes to progress, no?
Seriously, if you live in North America and you're giving identical weight to uniformity of climate or geography, you're an imbecile.
You're also reaching for no good reason. You don't have to look outside the room to understand why the Canucks are hated from coast to coast.
It's that core -- the Sedins, Roberto Luongo, Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows. With the talent they have, each would be welcome on any of the league's 30 teams and passionately defended by that team's fans. (I'm a Canucks fan. I like them all.) But, with the personalities they have, remove the fan bias and the villain's role suits each one of them.
Outside of British Columbia, they're easy to hate and they're fun to mock. Heck, the history of hating them is littered with great moments:
Burrows been has been known to bite fingers, pull hair, spear groins and take dives, although these antics are hardly exclusive to him; he's really no worse than Brad Marchand, Steve Ott, P.K. Subban or several of the league's other high-level pests.
But he plays on the Canucks' top line, which means you don't get the satisfaction of knowing that being a wanker is all he's got. He's a wanker that can beat you, which is why getting the best of him is the quickest way to achieve heroic status. Like this:
Or this big hit from Wednesday night's game.
If you don't know what makes Ryan Kesler hateable, you obviously didn't watch Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. He was all over the ice, either on his feet or off. His tumbleweed dive in the back half of the third period was downright ridiculous, as was his attempt to draw a high-sticking call on Jonathan Quick while interfering with him on Alex Burrows' goal to open the scoring.
That's typical Kesler. On the ice, he's a big, mean, dirty, underhanded jerk, which is why that time Andrew Ladd tagged him was one for the ages:
Let's be clear: the Sedins are classy, quality individuals who have made immense charitable contributions, mind their business, and would prefer to avoid altercations. To my mind, even their diving has been exaggerated. They've been known to go down easily, sure, but to act like it makes them outliers in the NHL is silly. Drew Doughty is one of the league's worst divers. In his case, no one seems to care.
But with the Sedins, it's part of a larger problem people have with the way they play the game: Shying away from the rough stuff, using telepathy and magic, and being relatively pacifistic (and thus, seemingly unmasculine).
The Sedins are alien. They even look like aliens, something even Henrik Sedin once realized upon completion of a self-portrait. They play a sport that has an archetype and they don't fit it at all. Granted, this archetype is propagated primarily by the same people that think the Canadian climate has an archetype, but still. When you don't fit it, you become the other, and nothing makes people uncomfortable like the other.
Their strangely docile approach to the game can be exploited by aggravators, often to hilarious effect. Like so:
And like so:
And finally, there's Roberto Luongo, one of the league's most talented goaltenders, but also a guy with a tendency to get blown up on the national stage. Luongo's biggest issue is that people constantly hear he's an elite goaltender, but when they tune in for the big games, about half the time he gets shelled. He has the appearance of not being clutch in a culture that celebrates clutchness like it's a characteristic and not just a narrative device. That doesn't compute.
Moreover, he's entirely mockable. He makes hilarious faces, and he once broke down and cried after a loss, two things that led to this great and simple little website.
His sense of humor is dry and often misunderstood, especially if you're looking for something to justify your dislike. Consider his tire-pumping joke, which became twisted into a needy bid for love, or his quip about success versus the Eastern Conference, which came off like abhorrent and mockable arrogance.
Heck, he's so hateable Canuck fans even sort of hate him.
You put these guys together and you have a recipe for dislike so strong it can actually make other unlikable teams, well, likable.
The Boston Bruins? You'd think they were cherubs, what of the spell they put the continent under while vanquishing the Canucks. By the following fall, with a little distance from the Canucks, it had worn off and everyone hated them again.
The Los Angeles Kings? A team with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter of Dry Island, two guys many see as entitled team-ruiners, one of whom moped his way to a trade out of Columbus? Drew Doughty, a training camp holdout?
Why, one game versus the Canucks, the Listerine of the NHL, will wash that distaste right out of your mouth. Just gargle and spit.
Once hated, the Los Angeles Kings just became Canada's team.Header image taken from Canucks Hockey Blog.
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- Roberto Luongo
- Ryan Kesler
- Alex Burrows