"Five Reasons I Love the Canucks" is a new feature at Nucks Misconduct, inspired by Puck Daddy's "Five Reasons..." series. It features Canucks fans explaining, in their own words, the reasons for their passionate support of the team, and offers readers a chance to contribute their own stories to the site. Please email Sean Zandberg or Yankee Canuck if you would like to submit a 'Five Reasons..." list.
Here are five reason I, nucksandpucks, love the Canucks:
5. Canucks Nation
As an ex-Vancouverite who has spent most of the 2000s in Toronto I am always happy to discover fellow Canucks fans living outside of BC. I have been fortunate enough to see the Canucks play in San Jose, Buffalo, Toronto and Washington (in addition to Vancouver) and at each game I have enjoyed running into Canucks fans, bonding over our love of the team and cheering our hearts out in a rival rink. I hope to add more cities to this list in the near future - I have New York (Rangers and Isles) next in my sights. Back in Toronto, when I rock Canucks gear around the city, I every once in a while get into a conversation with, or at least hear a supportive comment from, another fan as a result. This never fails to bring a smile to my face.
[The list continues after the jump]
4. Jim Robson
Canucks fans have been blessed to have three fantastic play-by-play men calling games in the team's 40-year history. John Shorthouse is excellent (if you don't agree, try tuning into some other teams' radio broadcasts on NHL.com and see the standard of quality around the league-I sometimes have to put up with it when NHL Centre Ice does not pick up the Canucks feed for games). And Jim Hughson, though his stint as the Canucks' radio broadcaster was relatively brief, is among the best in the game right now. But neither of those two stands up to the legend of Jim Robson, the Hall of Fame broadcaster who called Canucks games from the franchise's inception in 1970 through its greatest season in 1994.
As a child growing up in the late-80s and early-90s, I had to rely almost exclusively on the radio for my Canucks fix. By the time I was 5 or 6 I would listen to nearly every game, and though on weeknights I was sent to bed at the end of the second period, I was allowed to listen to the game in bed - needless to say I rarely failed to catch the end of a game! Jim Robson was the voice of those years, and his commentary sparked my imagination and brought the game to life for me. Somehow he always managed to perfectly balance homerism with professionalism, providing entertaining, informative and relatively balanced coverage.
The ever-brilliant play-by-play man provided some of the most memorable quotations in Canucks history during the Canucks memorable run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1994-unforgettable calls ranged from "PA-VEL BURE!" (Game 7 vs. the Flames) to "Greg Adams! Greg Adams!" (Game 5 vs. the Maple Leafs) to "He will play! You know he will play! He'll play on crutches! He will play - and he will play at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night! The game is over!" (Game 6 vs. the Rangers). My only sadness with Robson is that, as with Tom Larscheid, I wish that he had had the opportunity to call a Canucks Stanley Cup victory during his illustrious career. Sadly, that Cup-winning call exists only in my, and likely many other Canucks fans', imagination.
3. My family
It is likely that even with no support from my family I would have still become a Canucks fan. Nonetheless, as the above photo demonstrates, I was certainly helped along and supported by my family in my hockey fandom. As far as I understand my older brother was the first in my family to become a Canucks fan, around the time of the 1982 playoff run. But throughout my life both my parents and my brother and sister have all had various levels of interest in the team, something I have enjoyed sharing with them over the years.
I was fortunate to grow up at a time when attending games was not out of reach for a family of relatively modest means. I remember that my local Safeway, for example, sold upper bowl tickets to select games in the 1990-91 season for just $9.99. My first game was the only one I ever attended with my whole family, a shutout loss to the Maple Leafs probably in the 1987-88 or 1988-89 season (highlights of Alan Bester's saves in this game are featured on the original Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em video).
For the first few years of the early 1990s my dad, whose interest in team sports is nearly nonexistent but who tacitly supports the Canucks because he knows that his family cares about them, took me to a game each year, something I've always appreciated because I know it was not the activity he would otherwise have chosen to engage in. He even managed to get us standing room tickets to Gretzky's first game in Vancouver as an LA King, a game at which I stood on a milk-crate procured by a Pacific Coliseum usher so that I could see over the people seated in front of me. Again, the low cost of tickets was critical to my ability to attend these games.
My brother took me to a number of games in the mid-1990s, which I really appreciated, and one season my sister, brother and I each received tickets to six Canucks for our birthday/Christmas presents. It was one of those late-90s seasons in which the team was terrible, but it was still a blast to attend games with my siblings and cheer on our sad-sack team. Luckily one of those games was against the Rangers, and was the game in which Gretzky scored his 50th and final career hat-trick.
As games have become more and more prominent on TV since the late-90s, I have increasingly enjoyed watching games with my family members - and have had some very memorable times as a result, particularly when games were not readily accessible on TVs in various locales. My sister and I have stopped in at a scuzzy pool-hall in rural Nova Scotia to catch a key late-season Canucks game. With both my siblings and my sister-in-law, I have braved the wrath of Calgarians to watch the Canucks battle the Flames at a Calgary sports bar. I once even sat at the bar with my mum in a student nightclub in Kingston, Ontario from 10pm-1am, shooing dancing couples and drunk frat boys out of our sightlines, because it was the only place in town showing the Canucks' season opener.
I love the Canucks, and have for two decades. And it has been a real pleasure to have shared so many memorable fan experiences with my family.
2. 1994 Playoffs
The Canucks run to the playoffs in 1994 is, for most fans who remember it, the most memorable moment in the franchise's history. I was born a year after the 1982 Cup run, meaning that a) I can't compare the '94 run to that of '82; and that b) my early experience of the Canucks was of the awful teams of the late-1980s. However, with the emergence of Trevor Linden as the team's leader, the arrival of the uber-talented and dynamic Pavel Bure, the improving play of goalie Kirk Mclean, and a number of shrewd Pat Quinn trades (netting the team players such as Geoff Courtnall and Cliff Ronning), the early '90s were a time of optimism for Canucks fans. Despite winning back-to-back division titles in 1992 and 1993, however, the 'Nucks failed to make it past the second round of the playoffs in those years. It was not until 1994 that, despite a poor regular season showing, things finally clicked in the playoffs.
The first round series against the Flames was, as are all series between the two rivals, an epic battle. The Canucks went down 3-1 in the series and appeared to be down and out to the division winners. One of those losses included my first ever playoff game, compliments of my older brother, which needless to say was a massive thrill despite the poor result (I still have the program from that game as well as a Canucks towel with a frosted malt stain on it). But back-to-back OT wins, courtesy of a Geoff Courtnall howitzer slap-shot in Game 5 and a Trevor Linden rebound in Game 6, brought the series to a dramatic Game 7 conclusion in Calgary. With the Canucks trailing late in the third period, Greg Adams scored a clutch goal to send the game to yet another overtime. The overtime would provide two of the greatest moments in Canucks history. First, Kirk Mclean absolutely robbed the Flames on a 3-1 break to give his team a chance to win it:
I remember screaming, thinking the game was surely over, only to yell even louder when Mclean made the save. Then, in the second OT period, the stage was set for Pavel Bure to score the most iconic goal in the history of the franchise:
After that the Canucks seemed a team of destiny, as they steamrolled Dallas and Toronto to reach the Finals. It was a glorious time to be a young Canucks fan. I wore my jersey to school probably every day, where I hung up ‘Go Canucks Go!' signs in the hallways. I played road hockey with a passion likely unmatched at any other time, as I channelled my Canucks heroes and endlessly pretended to score the Cup-winning goal. The city was alive with Canucks fever, something that was quite new to me (and, in the pre-car flag era, something not as common as it these days) - everywhere you went people were talking, wearing, watching the Canucks. Despite a slight annoyance at bandwagon jumpers, it was nonetheless brilliant.
Obviously the Finals was, ultimately, a disappointment. But it was still amazing, with so many highs and lows as the Canucks took the heavily-favoured Rangers all the way to the final buzzer of Game 7 before losing the Cup by one goal. A huge highlight of the series was watching Game 5, which was in New York, on the big screen at the Pacific Coliseum. Though this is now fairly common when sports teams are in big games, it was definitely not a regular occurrence in 1994, at least not in Vancouver. Clearly the Coliseum folks didn't expect much of a crowd, because when the game ended hundreds of us scaled the glass and jumped on to the ice with nary a security guard to stop us. After about 10 minutes of sliding around and revelling on the Coliseum ice, the perfect night was capped when a Province photographer snapped a picture of fans leaving the ice through the Zamboni gates-a picture that included my brother and I, and which appeared in the paper the next day. Pretty freakin' cool for a diehard, 10 year old Canucks fan.
I could keep reminiscing about 1994, but you get the point. It was an amazing time to be a Canucks fan, and one that is forever cemented in my memory of my time as a Canucks fan. Until the Canucks make another run to the Finals, I can only fantasize about feeling those same highs as I felt 16 years ago.
1. Eternal hope
I do not entertain the thought that the Canucks will never win a Stanley Cup in my lifetime. Every year, no matter how good or bad the current squad, I plot the road to the Cup. Every playoffs that the Canucks make I keep the faith, heart over head, that the Canucks will go on a magical, '94-esque run - but this time that they will finish the job.
I replay imagined Cup winning goals in my head - in the past the scorers have been Bure, Linden, Naslund, and these days they are Henrik, Daniel, Kesler, Burrows. I imagine my reaction when they win: tears of joy, hugs with friends and random strangers alike, dancing and cheering in the streets until I collapse in happy exhaustion, waking up the next day and having the slow, euphoric realization that the Canucks won slowly creep over me.
I can only imagine this feeling, and I hope that one day I will experience it. Until then, I will continue to find joy in the small victories and dream of the day that the Canucks are finally Stanley Cup champions.
Honourable mention: Trevor Linden (come to think of it, he should definitely be on this list); The West Coast Express; hating the Flames; Canucks Place and other charitable ventures