[Ed. Note: Some lists chronicle the best in hockey. Others the worst. Others the most memorable or greatest or essential. What Puck Daddy’s 2016 Summer Series seeks to do is capture those indefinable, quirky, oddities that occur every season. Moments that defy prediction or, in some cases, logical explanation. Welcome to WEIRD NHL.]
Since their inception in 1970, the Vancouver Canucks have had a turbulent existence.
The list below doesn’t even cover everything that has weirdly happened to this organization. The two Game 7 Stanley Cup Finals losses (not that weird, just sad), that whole Messier and Keenan thing (weird and sad) or the constant jersey changes (weird) didn’t even make the cut.
When I think of weird, I think of funny and it seems like we can only laugh at ourselves to help mask the pain of never winning that elusive first Stanley Cup.
1. The Tortorella Year
Where do we even begin?
John Tortorella was hired by the Canucks when Alain Vigneault was relieved of his duties after being swept by the San Jose Sharks in 2013. The thought was with Tortorella and some tweaks to the lineup, which included trading Cory Schneider for a draft pick instead of immediate help, the Canucks would trend back up towards their dominant ways of two years prior.
It had the complete opposite effect.
The in your face tactics of John Tortorella always appeared to be clash with the veteran Canucks roster, and one incident sticks out. After the Ottawa Senators scored, Jannik Hansen returned to the bench and got an earful from his head coach.
Torts was right, Hansen should’ve been back-checking harder, but the tuning out that Jannik Hansen does is so apparent … and that was in October.
After the season there were tidbits of information that came out that made fans and media raise their eyebrows.
During an interview, Alexandre Burrows mentioned that Tortorella and himself didn’t have a conversation until Christmas and it was also reported that Tortorella was suggesting that the Canucks buyout Burrows. The lack of communication didn’t stop there, as Gary Mason from the Globe and Mail mentioned in an interview on TSN 1040 in Vancouver, that Tortorella didn’t speak to Utica Comets – the team’s AHL affiliate at the time – head coach Travis Green the entire season.
Tortorella and forward David Booth didn’t see eye to eye, too.
In that same interview with Gary Mason, he told a story where Booth was early for a practice but wasn’t seen by the head coach. Tortorella then ‘lights into’ Booth about it, to which the forward replied with ‘I’ve was here early’ and his teammates backed him up. Not too mention, Tortorella referred to Booth as a ‘weird dude’ to start the season.
The list could keep going, and we haven’t mentioned the starting of Eddie Lack in the Heritage Classic over Roberto Luongo, which in part led to the Canucks moving Luongo a few short days later.
But the one major event summarizes the season perfectly is January 18th, 2014, when after a line brawl to start the game, Tortorella decided to visit the Flames dressing room during the first intermission.
Tortorella ended up being suspended for 15 days for the incident and the Canucks fell off the rails from there. Ending the season with the 25th worst record that season, Canucks ownership relieved GM and President Mike Gillis before the season ended and put fan-favourite Trevor Linden in the role of President.
The Canucks ended up selecting 6th, 36th and 66th at the next draft and walked away with Jake Virtanen, Thatcher Demko and Nikita Tryamkin. All three of which appear to be on track to be parts of the Canucks future.
The Canucks are also currently owed a second round pick from Columbus, as they hired Tortorella before the executive compensation rule was removed. So I guess that’s the silver lining in what is up there as one of the weirdest seasons in franchise history.
2. Luongo and the Honda Center Bathroom
The first weird moment that popped into my mind was Roberto Luongo and Game 5 of the 2007 Western Conference series against the Anaheim Ducks.
Luongo had just concluded a fantastic first season with the Canucks, posting an astounding 47 wins for a squad that had no business winning that many games, let alone one goalie putting it up. Those 47 wins was somehow the second most that season with Martin Brodeur setting a new NHL record with 48 wins.
Despite what could be considered a career for Luongo, he took his game to another level in the playoffs, posting a 1.77 GAA and 0.941 in 12 playoff games. That included a 7 game series with the Dallas Stars, where Marty Turco had to shutout the Canucks three times just to push the Canucks to seven games.
The Canucks then moved onto face the Anaheim Ducks, and although with the exception of game one, Luongo kept the games close when the Canucks had no business doing so. Entering Game 5, the Ducks looked poised to take the series and came out swinging – outshooting the Canucks 47-21 in regulation, and if it wasn’t for a 3rd period goal by Alexandre Burrows, and of course Luongo’s heroics, the Ducks would’ve taken it in regulation, but alas overtime was on the horizon.
Before the overtime began, Canucks fans were collectively holding their breath waiting for the inevitable loss, but in the back of their minds there was the thought of ‘maybe Luongo can steal this for us’.
But Luongo didn’t come out to start overtime, it was back-up Dany Sabourin. Who had seen a total of 480 minutes of ice-time during the regular season. With no immediate word on what happened to Luongo, that hope of somehow taking the series back to Vancouver was gone. There was no way that Sabourin could play anywhere close to what Luongo did.
It was a stressful three and a half minutes, as the Ducks tried to take advantage of a cold Sabourin but were unable to do so, with Sabourin making five saves before Luongo returned. At the time, no one had any idea what was going on, even GM Dave Nonis looked to be in shock of Luongo not coming out to start OT.
The Canucks were able to force a second overtime, where a hit by the lesser known Niedermayer on Jannik Hansen led to the better Niedermayer scoring on Luongo. Who was for some reason calling for a penalty at the time.
Although the Canucks stood no chance against the eventual Stanley Cup winners, that playoff run likely would’ve been easily forgotten if it wasn’t for those weird overtime periods on May 3rd. At least now, we can all laugh about it, even Luongo.
— Strombone (@strombone1) January 26, 2013
3. Kevin Bieksa pretends to be Ryan Kesler
During the 2012 playoff series against the L.A. Kings, Mike Dunsmore of Fox Sports wanted to interview Vancouver Canucks centre and American-born Ryan Kesler.
Unfortunately, Dunsmore didn’t end up interviewing Kesler, he actually interviewed Kevin Bieksa, who was aware of the mistake and went with it completing the entire interview pretending to be Kesler.
After the fact, the interview is funny simply because Bieksa just rolls with it. The whole interview culminates with Dunsmore saying ‘God Bless America.’
Maybe if Vern Fiddler was around, he could’ve pretended to be Bieksa as he did memorable impression a few years later.
4. The Bra-Barian
They say that players on waivers don’t generally reap high reward but the Canucks have one player that they claimed on waivers who left a lasting impression.
Jeff Cowan was claimed on the waiver wire from the Los Angeles Kings in late December 2006 as the Canucks needed some depth and grit in their bottom six. He had 0 goals in 21 games with the Kings before coming to the Canucks, so there wasn’t much offence expected from him.
That changed quickly as scored 6 goals in 4 games, which included 2 goals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. After the second goal, in celebration a fan threw their bra onto the ice and quickly Cowan was given the nickname ‘Conan The Bra-barian.’
A journeyman NHL’r scores a bunch of goals in a couple of games, so under garments get thrown on the ice – that’s weird right?
5. Drafting Pavel Bure
One of the best players in franchise history came to the Canucks in one of the weirdest draft stories in league history.
Prior to the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, Bure was regarded as one the best players available but given the tenuous situation with the Soviet Union, there was no guarantee that he would come over. This made teams apprehensive to select him, and at the time, there were rules about when a player could be drafted. So if a team wanted to select Bure, they could’ve in the first three rounds with no issue, but given the aforementioned transfer worries, nobody did.
At the time, it was thought that Bure did not reach a requirement of games played to be selected in the fourth round or later.
Canucks head scout at the time, Mike Penny, found that Bure had appeared in enough contests and thus was eligible to be taken. The Canucks selected Bure in the sixth round with the 113th overall pick. The Red Wings, Oilers and Jets all had interest in Bure and had considered taking Bure later in the draft with hopes of working out the ineligibility later. Ultimately the Canucks got wind of this and decided to take Bure.
Almost a full year later, on May 17, 1990, the league ruled that the Bure selection was voided as he didn’t meet the requirements, at which time the Canucks provided the necessary game sheets and lineups to prove the Russian forward was eligible to be selected. The night prior to the 1990 NHL Entry draft, where Bure would’ve re-entered, the NHL deemed the pick valid and the Canucks selection was upheld.
Although some other Russian players like Igor Larionov had defected to join the NHL, the Soviet Ice Hockey Federation wouldn’t allow the Canucks to speak to Bure personally and Pavel was worried that if he did defect that there may be repercussions for his younger brother Valeri.
Eventually Bure left and went to Los Angeles, the Canucks worked out a deal with the Red Army, then a contract with Bure, and as they say, the rest was history. Luckily Bure was worth the weird and tedious process and wasted no time getting fans excited.
Honorably Weird: Sully and Force, a.k.a The Green Men.
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About the author: Ryan Biech is a gif maker, writer, and podcaster, who covers the Vancouver Canucks and is constantly in search of sleep, sanity and the Shire. Follow him on twitter @ryanbiech.