(This month, Puck Daddy asked bloggers for every NHL team to tell us The Essentials for their franchises — everything from the defining player and trade, to the indispensable fan traditions. Here's our own Harrison Mooney, giving us The Essentials for the Vancouver Canucks.)
If we're being fair, the most essential aspects of Canuck fandom are pessimism and self-loathing. In the 41 years of this franchise, very little has gone our way and it's gotten to us. We've become oversensitive. Our fuse is short. It can make us our own worst enemy, such as that one time we rioted.
And also that other time.
Our ever-increasing pessimism has made us a tough fanbase to please. Mark Messier, Canadian hero? We hate him. Nevermind that he was voted the Canucks' most valuable player in 1999-2000. He's the worst. Roberto Luongo, the best goalie to ever play for the Canucks? Get him out of here. The 2010-11 team that went to the Cup Final? Blow it up.
But there's a bright side to our blind pessimism. The moment something manages to wriggle out from under it, we love it unconditionally. We deify it. So help us if you ever say an unkind word about that thing. Don't even think about it, or we'll mess you up. We're crazy, remember. We destroyed our own city once twice.
And you stay away from Trevor Linden.
Did I mention we love Trevor Linden? Because we love Trevor Linden. And not just for his hockey ability. He's also a stud. Our men tell our women they're looking "Trevor Linden good" -- that's how much we love Trevor Linden.
Vancouver's love for Trevor Linden goes beyond hockey for a number of reasons, foremost of which is that hockey alone couldn't earn him that special place in our hearts. Linden was excellent -- a heart and soul guy -- and he very nearly dragged the Canucks to a Stanley Cup Final in 1994. But he's hardly the franchise's best player. Markus Naslund is the Canucks' all-time leading scorer. Linden's third on that list, and he'll be fourth by the end of next season (if it happens).
Even at his prime, Linden wasn't the best. In terms of pure skill, Pavel Bure was way beyond him. But there's a reason Linden's jersey is retired and Pavel's isnt.
Linden just clicked with this city. He was and still is active in the community. He played a rugged, two-way game. He gave his all every night. He put Jeff Norton through a pane of glass. He played 16 seasons for the Canucks, bleeding blue and green and white and red and black and maroon and darker blue. When it comes to essential players, there is no other choice.
This one's going to raise a few eyebrows, what with its recency and the sour taste it still leaves in people's mouths, but the 2010-11 season had it all.
Daniel Sedin won the Art Ross, Ryan Kesler won the Selke, Alain Vigneault was nominated for coach of the year, Mike Gillis was GM of the year, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider won the Jennings, the Canucks led in almost every team category, the team won the Presidents' Trophy, and they came within a game of winning the Stanley Cup. That's a damn good year, and the fact that this selection is going to be met with criticism is absurd.
Sure, there's 1994 to consider, a year that's had just enough time to go from "thing that happened" to "legend", but that Canuck team went on a flukey run. For most of the season, they were a middling, unimpressive team. When it comes to a whole season, nothing beats 2010-11.
Granted, there was a bit of a ruckus afterwards, but technically that happened after the season was over. So it doesn't count.
Saturday, June 11th, 1994. It was Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, and with the Rangers leading 3-2, the Canucks needed the win. Lucky for them, everything went their way. Jeff Brown scored the first goal. Early in the third, he scored the third, giving the Canucks a 3-1 lead. Then, late in the third, Geoff Courtnall scored, but the play continued, and the Rangers scored to make it 3-2. After review, Courtnall's goal was counted, and the score suddenly changed to 4-1.
Reviewing this game now, two things stand out: 1) holy Hell, was there a lot of hooking back then. 2) Trevor Linden played the greatest game of his career.
Game 6 was also the moment Linden reached sainthood. Heck, there's even a photo of the exact moment it happened. At the end of the game, an iconic photo was snapped. In it, an exhausted, beaten-up Linden rests on Kirk McLean, hardly able to move. Later we'd learn he had two broken ribs. But it didn't seem to matter. "He'll play, you know he'll play. He'll play on crutches," said Jim Robson.
If there were an essential photo category, this would be it.
It's tempting to make this Alex Burrows's goal from the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, but no discussion of essential Canucks moments is complete without a Pavel Bure goal.
Bure's best was the double overtime winner over the Calgary Flames in Game 7 of the first round of the 1994 playoffs. The Canucks had gone down 3-1 in that series before clawing their way back with two straight overtime winners. And then Bure made it three after getting in behind the Calgary defence:
Good thing I'm already sitting down.
Markus Naslund for Alek Stojanov. Because the Canucks got Naslund, who wound up being one of the best players in franchise history, and the Penguins got some guy named Stojanov.
Thomas Gradin was inducted into the ring of honour in January of 2011, so he's been somewhat sung, but he doesn't get nearly enough credit for the trail he blazed in the late 1970s, as a European NHLer and as a Swede in Vancouver.
Gradin was the Canucks' first European player and his success primed this city to embrace Swedish stars in bulk. We've done so in recent years, with stars like Patrik Sundstrom, Matthias Ohlund, and Swedish captains Markus Naslund and Henrik Sedin.
Gradin has continued on with the Canucks as a Swedish scout and was instrumental in the drafting of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, and Alex Edler.
Did I mention we don't particularly care for Mark Messier out on Canada's West coast? Seriously, our feud with the first ballot hall of famer is still ongoing. Earlier this summer, he managed to claim another six million dollars from the team. He haunts Vancouver even still.
It all began in 1994, when Messier's Rangers defeated the Canucks for the Stanley Cup. But it didn't end there. Not by a longshot.
Not content to simply break the hearts of Vancouverites from afar, Messier infiltrated the room, signing in Vancouver in 1997. He immediately took the captaincy from Trevor Linden -- who, as I mentioned earlier, we would prefer you not mess with -- and he took the number 11, which had been unofficially retired since former number 11 Wayne Maki died of brain cancer in 1974.
Taking a letter from a god and a number from a dead guy won't win you many friends, but these are things that can be overcome if you play well, and Messier did not. Now, he didn't play terribly, but 60 points in year 1 made it Messier's worst season since his rookie year. And the team, believed by many to be a Messier-type away from contention, instead finished dead last in the Pacific Division. Then all that grave-robbing and Linden-disrespecting really mattered.
It still matters, dammit.
The greatest fight in the history of the Vancouver Canucks? Gino Odjick versus the St. Louis Blues. And the officials. And clothing.
My favourite part is when the official tries to grab his jersey, but forgets there's no jersey and gets a handful of pec. Then Odjick pushes his hand away like, "Don't touch me, man, I'm practically naked."
Mike Keenan. Just kidding.
I'm going to get crucified for this, but... Alain Vigneault.
Sure, Roger Neilson has a statue outside the arena. And sure, Vigneault's recent extension wasn't exactly met with glee. He definitely has his critics. They say he switches up his lines too much, that he doesn't adjust quickly enough in the playoffs, that he gets outcoached, that he plays favourites, that, secretly, the Sedins are the coach of the team, and that he broke Cody Hodgson's back on purpose.
But these are all unsubstantiated claims, and if it's empirical evidence you want, AV's got it. He's got the most coaching wins in Canucks history, both in the regular season and the playoffs. He's got two more Presidents' trophies than any other Canucks coach. He's been nominated for the Jack Adams thrice and won once. Also, his laughter is infectious:
And here he is laughing at the suggestion that Kyle Wellwood was trying really hard in a game.
Never change, Vigneault.
Jim Robson. Absolutely nobody in Vancouver has ever called a game like he did and it's not even close.
Towel Power is a great tradition, and it comes from a great story. In Game 2 of the 1982 Western Conference Finals in Chicago, the Canucks got what coach Roger Neilson felt was the short shrift from the officials. After having a goal waved off, they were whistled for four consecutive penalties. After Denis Savard scored on the powerplay, putting the Blackhawks up 4-1, the Canucks' coaching staff decided to lobby some kind of protest. Tiger Williams suggested throwing sticks onto the ice.
But Neilson, a craft sort, opted instead to place a towel on the end of his stick and wave it in mock surrender. The act was not appreciated, and he was ejected from the game.
It was appreciated in Vancouver, however, and when the series headed back there for Game 3, fans were armed with white towels to show their support for the team. The tradition continues to this day.
And so: the next time you claim Canuck fans are all a bunch of tinfoil-hatters, know that any conspiracy theory we espouse has nothing to do with you. We're simply trying to rally the base.
Yikes. The food in Rogers Arena is decidedly unmemorable. Your best option is to hit up a Japadog stand on Robson during the walk to the arena.
I'm resisting the urge to say a car flag.
It's the Flying V jersey. What an ugly, ugly, ugly thing. But it's not just a jersey. It's a metaphor for this team. When it's at its ugliest, and it often is, we celebrate it. We embrace it. We wear it. The Vancouver Canucks -- as disgusting as they've looked for many, many years -- are ours. Heck, they used to wear this jersey, that's how incompetent they are.
But a true Canucks fan doesn't just cheer for the team in the rare moments they're winning and looking good. A true fan cheers for them when they're awful, and they look even worse. That's what wearing the Flying V is all about. It's like those monks that whip themselves in the back to show their devotion, but for hockey.
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