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Sean Leahy

Why Orland Kurtenblog Loves Hockey

Sean Leahy
Puck Daddy

Our series "5 Reasons I Love Hockey" features puckheads from all walks of life revealing five things that either made them a fan or that keep them watching hockey. It will run every weekday through August. Enjoy.

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Jason Brough and Mike Halford are the jokesters who write the Orland Kurtenblog for the Vancouver Province. When they're not chatting about skeet-shooting and body building, they're putting a comical spin on the world of hockey.

Here's the Kurtenblog boys explaining to us why they love hockey.

BROUGH: Let's kick this off with some nostalgic sap.

I'm Canadian, but I didn't grow up in a hockey family. My dad's from England, which meant I was the one explaining icing when he took me to my first game (Jan. 2, 1987, Vancouver 3, Los Angeles 3. They tied in terrible uniforms, too.)

My parents supported my passion - they bought me books about the game and shelled out the big bucks so I could play - but the poring over box scores (I can still tell you that a sell-out at the Pacific Coliseum was 16,553, even though it rarely happened), listening to Canucks games on the radio, playing street hockey with my buddies - nobody forced that on me. Cello lessons? Now those were forced on me. As such, I don't write the Mstislav Blogstropovich today. (A little cello humour there for you.)

Look, you know when you're trying to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life and somebody asks you, "Well, what are you passionate about?" There's a reason I'm a poor hockey writer. I have a business degree damn it! In fact, I very nearly went off to do my MBA a few years ago, but I decided at the last minute stick to my passion. Good thing too, and not just because I love hockey. One of the essays I wrote for my application extolled the virtues of securitization in the real-estate industry. Oops.

HALFORD: Five (or is it seven?) words - Don Cherry's Rock ‘em Sock'em Hockey.

The year was 1989. I was 10. Cherry's son, Tim, put together a video collection of goals, saves, bloopers, hits and - perhaps most importantly - fights. With that, the Rock'em Sock'em franchise was born and, of course, I was hooked. It was like hockey's version of a snuff film - you watched with the lingering thought that you weren't supposed to enjoy what you were viewing. Huge checks, bloody scraps - and they were being celebrated! Suddenly, hockey wasn't just about the grace and skill of Gretzky and Lemieux - it was the pugilistic prowess of Kocur and Probert. Now, don't get me wrong - I have and always will appreciate this. But I've also got great admiration for this.

This probably goes a long way in explaining why the Kurtenblog frequently doubles as a hockey violence portal. From our NHL's Greatest Hit contest to the popular "Fight Fight Fight Fight Fight" tag, I'm always on the lookout for what Grapes calls "Just a little rough stuff, nothing wrong with that."

BROUGH: In a way, I'm terrified that the Canucks are going to win the Stanley Cup one day.

We like to poke fun at people in Vancouver who say the Canucks are like the Chicago Cubs of hockey. It's not that bad yet, but it's still been pretty bad. Try this on for size: I was born in 1976 and I didn't witness a single winning season until I was in high school.

I used to be a big Toronto Blue Jays fan, and if you remember the 1980s Jays, you'll remember them repeatedly blowing it in spectacular fashion. In 1985, they blew a 3-1 lead over Kansas City in the ALCS. In 1987, they lost their last seven games of the regular season to squander a 3.5-game division lead over Detroit. When they finally won it all in 1992, I lost interest. They'd conquered their demons. So, uh, now what?

I don't have that problem with the Canucks. Not by a long shot. And it keeps me watching. And hoping. And butting cigarettes out on my face because I crave pain.

HALFORD: There was a lot of hopping onto the Canucks bandwagon in 1994. Not me, though. I jumped aboard five years earlier.

The year was 1989 (which, apparently, was a fairly influential one in my life). The Canucks were a bad team (33-39-8) that finished fourth in the Smythe Division - only a truly awful Winnipeg team kept Vancouver out of last place. The Canucks' reward for avoiding the Smythe cellar? A first-round playoff matchup with the powerhouse Calgary Flames, led by the likes of Joe Mullen, Doug Gilmour, Joe Nieuwendyk(notes) and Al MacInnis.

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The Canucks, meanwhile, countered with a less-inspiring lineup: Petri Skriko, Tony Tanti, Brian Bradley and Paul Reinhart. Oh, and the immortal Steve Bozek. Love Steve Bozek.

As such, nobody had high hopes for the Canucks. Longtime Province sportswriter Jim Taylor joked that it'd be the first best-of-seven series decided in three. Yet despite being woefully overmatched, the Canucks made a series of it. A precocious rookie named Trevor Linden(notes) emerged as a star. Journeyman blueliner Robert Nordmark started scoring goals. Before long, the series was headed to overtime of Game 7! The Canucks were actually going to pull it off! One of the greatest upsets in hockey history! It was all about to happen...

Until Joel Otto kicked it in. Don't believe me? Here's proof.

In conclusion, I'm still not really over this one. This explains why I spend an inordinate amount of time seething over Canuck futility on the interblog.

BROUGH: I was lucky enough to be in the building for this:

In conclusion, I like hockey because of shifts like that.

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