January 29, 2010
On Wednesday night, the Vancouver Canucks played their last home game at GM Place until March 13. Because the Olympic ice hockey competition is being held at the Canucks' home, they are being forced on a 14-game trip.
A lot can happen before Canucks fans see their team in person again. The Olympics will be done for almost two weeks and the city may still be celebrating another hockey gold medal. The roster Canucks fans saw on Wednesday may be different, with the NHL trade deadline set for March 3. Vancouver currently sits third in the Western Conference just two points ahead of Colorado in the Northwest Division. After these 14 games, the Canucks could have broken away from the pack or still be stuck in the middle of it.
To send off the Canucks as they begin their journey, we've created a simple guide to help them enjoy the next 12,899 miles they'll be traveling, including local attractions, quality of opponents and, perhaps most importantly, dietary options of Kyle Wellwood(notes). Enjoy!
Jan. 30 at Toronto Maple Leafs
Attractions: The CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" studios, where they'll sit in for Don Cherry on Coach's Corner and show highlights of Ron MacLean's verbal gaffes for eight minutes during the first intermission.
Winnable Game? You don't want to open up this long trip by losing to the Maple Leafs. What would the Green Men think?
Feb. 2 at Montreal Canadiens
Attractions: The Hall of Fame inside Bell Centre, so that they can relive every Canadiens home game from last season.
Kyle Wellwood Dietary Options: You can't go to Montreal without at least trying the poutine.
Kyle Wellwood Dietary Options: Any variety of smoked meat. But not the extra thin kind. It's nearly bikini season.
Feb. 6 at Boston Bruins
Attractions: Mount Auburn cemetery in Cambridge, to pay respects to the Bruins' offense this season.
Kyle Wellwood Dietary Options: New England clam chowder washed down with a pint of Sam
Winnable Game? Boston hasn't won at home since the Winter Classic. Odds are that trend may continue thanks to injuries. Only a dangerous game if the Canucks spot them three goals out of pity.
Feb. 9 at Tampa Bay Lightning
Attractions: Splitsville bowling alley and bar, just to see if Roberto Luongo sheds any tears in the locker room if he fails to hit a 7/10 split.
Kyle Wellwood Dietary Options: Late night dining at Munchies 420 Café in Sarasota. If Adam Richman of Man vs. Food approves, so does Kyle.
Feb. 11 at Florida Panthers
Attractions: You're 40 minutes from South Beach and the lovely ladies of Miami. And we've seen the talent in Vancouver. 'Nuff said.
Kyle Wellwood Dietary Options: Anywhere you turn you'll be able to find delicious Cuban Dietary. Just stay out of any cabs with New York Mets pitchers.
Winnable Game? It'll be Luongo's second time playing against the Panthers since the infamous Draft Day deal. No word if the Panthers will commemorate the occasion by retiring Bryan Allen's(notes) number. Wait, he's still playing? Nevermind then.
Feb. 12 at Columbus Blue Jackets
Attractions: Attend speaking engagement by the Sedin's at the next meeting of the Columbus Mothers of Twins Club.
Kyle Wellwood Dietary Options: Thurman Café for the Thurman Burger, which features a nearly obscene amount of toppings.
Winnable Game? The Blue Jackets are one of three teams that Luongo has recorded four shutouts against. If Ken Hitchcock is still running the ship in the Columbus, chances are Bobby Lou could notch number five.
Feb. 14 at Minnesota Wild
Kyle Wellwood Dietary Options: Juicy Lucy hamburgers, only because they put the cheese on the inside.
Winnable Game? The Wild will need the points heading into the break. It's an easy trap game for Vancouver with the number of Olympians they have on the roster who could be thinking about their upcoming quest for gold.
March 2 at Columbus Blue Jackets
(See: Feb. 12. But if Wellwood isn't feeling the Thurman Burger, may we suggest Schmidt's all-you-can-eat sausage buffet?)
March 3 at Detroit Red Wings
Attractions: Ryan Kesler's(notes) parents house in Livonia where the parade celebrating the USA's gold medal will begin.
Kyle Wellwood Dietary Options: Spending two hours at Cheli's Chili making endless "Chris Chelios is so old that ..." jokes.
Winnable Game? A likely healthier Red Wings team will be back to normal gobbling up points as they move further away from the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Not as winnable as it once was.
March 5 at Chicago Blackhawks
Attractions: Tony Esposito's "House of Horrors."
Kyle Wellwood Dietary Options: Roundtable dinner at Ditka's with Bill Swerski and the Superfans. Just keep an eye out on Todd O'Connor. Poor guy is on his fourth heart attack this month.
Winnable Game? Chicago's been rolling all season and the end of this trip for the Canucks gets tougher and tougher. Vancouver will have confidence heading into the game having taken two of three from the Blackhawks so far this season.
March 7 at Nashville Predators
Attractions: Music Valley Wax Museum, where nearly three tons of candles were melted down to create a to-scale version of Barry Trotz's neck.
Kyle Wellwood Dietary Options: Any local diner that features the Elvis buffet: a smorgasbord of fatty foods with some flair.
Winnable Game?: Nashville is one of the NHL's underrated dangerous teams. By the time these teams meet on March 7, the points on the line will be incredibly important as the Western Conference race will only get tighter and tighter.
March 9 at Colorado Avalanche
Attractions: Adams Mystery Playhouse for the dinner theater show "Murder at an Irish Wake" featuring Alain Vigneault as Father Maloney and Darcy Hordichuk as Paddie O'Plastic.
Kyle Wellwood Dietary Options: Being in beef country, the burgers at Duffy's Cherry Cricket.
Winnable Game? Barring a massive run on injuries, the Avalanche will continue to show that their success isn't a fluke and divisional games with a month left in the season are never easy. If things remain as they are now, this will be one to watch.
March 10 at Phoenix Coyotes
Kyle Wellwood Dietary Options: What better way to end a trip than a team dinner at the Heart Attack Grill. Those patrons weighing over 350 pounds can eat however much they want ... for free.
Winnable Game? By the time the Canucks reach Phoenix, there could be an overwhelming feeling of excitement if the Coyotes remain in playoff position. The home-ice advantage will obviously not be a factor in this game, but they've split their two games so far.
• • •
The pre-Olympic trip isn't so tough, but the five games to end the entire trek will be incredibly tough against Western Conference opponents that will also be needing two points. The Canucks will easily head into the Olympic break on a high, but will drop some points as they finish things out. That should bring them back home on March 13 against Ottawa in a spot to begin separating from the rest of the pack in the Western Conference, as the final weeks of the season arrive.