Sean nucksandpucks started. With a bunch of others playing along, I reckon I should. Though mine may be a bit strange coming from an outsider perspective, but would you expect anything less?
5. The Wildcards - The first few seasons I followed Vancouver weren't the best. In fact they sucked. Fans deserve a medal for slamming down a dollar (sorry, a loonie) for this team from 1995 through 2000. The Tom Renney / Mike Keenan / "hey we won 23 games!" sort of years were atrocious. If you missed them, thank your lucky stars.
But behind every elite Ruskie winger and grumpy Rangers center were the no names, dark horses, emerging players, black aces and random rookies who made the journey suck just a little bit less. I'm thinking Adrian Aucoin (98-99), Lonny Bohonos (96-97), Bret Hedican (95-96), Bill Muckalt (98-99), Martin Gelinas (95-96) and Markus Naslund's breakthrough year (98-99) for example. Energy guys who gave you something on every shift: Brady May, Trent Klatt & Scott Walker. Others were just plain funny: Odjick without question, the Babych'stache, Jyrki Lumme's goofy smile and even the short-lived Esa Tikkanen days. I still have this now with guys like Mason Raymond two years ago or Sergei Shirokov now.
Some of those mentioned above had lasting power, some didn't. It doesn't matter: they gave me hope that - one day - the franchise would cease being a perennial failure. When your team is truly terrible, it's the wildcards who provide the lone shots of hope to fuel you forward.
4. Our goalie graveyard - That's right, in a sick way, this endeared the Canucks to me more. Maybe it was the stark contrast at the time: back east my friends could depend on Brodeur, Richter, even Hextall and Vanbiesbrouck to keep the puck out. In the vast wasteland that were the years between Kirk McLean and Roberto Luongo, who could I counter with? Kay Whitmore, Corey Hirsch, Mike Fountain, Sean Burke, Arturs Irbe, Garth Snow, Kevin Weekes, Alfie Michaud, Felix Potvin, Corey Schwab, Dan Cloutier, Bob Essensa, Alex Auld, Martin Brochu, Peter Skudra, Tyler Moss, Johan Hedberg, Rob McVicar, Mika Noronen and Maxime Ouellet.
Yet for every Burke police report, Cloutier five hole and Garth Snow dance party that caused such facepalming, there was the belief that someone...anyone...could fix this. No team could possibly be doomed to have such horrific netminding for that long right? Even if we were, it became a call to arms. Sure it's a graveyard, but it's my graveyard damn it. It's like owning the worst, most beat to hell car in the neighborhood and driving it proudly, rolling up next to the Lexus at the light and giving the other driver a huge, shit-eating grin.
It wasn't all bad either. Potvin and Cloutier weren't the complete disasters we often paint them out to be. Irbe, Essensa, Auld and Skudra saved our asses more times than I can count. Also, as I've said many times before, Corey Hirsch had one of the best goalie masks ever. Period.
3. Late East Coast game starts - No joke: until this year I have never seen a Vancouver home game that didn't start at 10:00 PM. A smarter individual would have picked a team perhaps one time zone away but noooo...who was the idiot who spent the end of high school, most of college and all of his 20's obliterating his already fragile suspended sensory and motor activities in the name of sport? This guy! (*two thumbs up pointing at tired face*)
Watching the Canucks meant paying the price the next morning, eventually transforming to a badge of honor for being a die-hard far away. It meant getting muffled yells for celebrating when the dude next door had to be on Wall Street before the market opened. Blah blah blah; clearly he didn't understand that no one needs sleep when there's a chance Marc Crawford could blow a fuse around 1:00 AM and force a single strand of hair out of alignment.
This was truly tested during game one of the 2007 playoffs, a home start against the Dallas Stars that needed quadruple-overtime for the win. Something like five and half hours of playoff hockey. I vaguely remember seeing the clock get close to 3:45 AM before exhilaration and a comical-level of exhaustion saw me pass out only to be rudely awakened by the alarm clock two hours later. Wouldn't change that - and countless others blurry-eyed moments - for the world.
2. This whole blogging thing - I wish I had a cool story about my father or some uncle taking me out to a frozen pond and teaching me fundamentals. Nope. I didn't even bother playing hockey until my late teens and went the goalie route because the little girls at the open skates were speedier.
Trying to follow Vancouver from another coast before the internet (I swear, there was such a time) was pathetic. All I had were small write-ups in the far back of newspaper sports sections and they were usually a day late because the papers went to print before west coast games were over. ESPN 2 would occasionally show a Canucks / Kings game and I would stay up late to watch, never truly seeing the puck through the terrible reception on my old TV. If the Canucks came to town, I would catch them only if I could deliver enough pizzas to afford the ticket.
Fast forward to just after the lockout, I stumbled upon hockey blogs and my level of fandom immediately changed. Battle of Alberta and the defunct Covered in Oil got me started, showing easily how fans with a perspective and a brain could use the interwebs to provide a far more interesting perspective than any newspaper columnist. From there I found Alanah at her old VancouverOpEd site (before she went to Canucks & Beyond) and JJ at Canucks Hockey Blog and their stuff was gold as well. Those two were the only ones focused on the Canucks way back in the day.
I didn't really know what to expect of blogging originally or if anyone would care what the hell I thought. Then an unexpected fun moment landed in my lap: the Canucks beat the Oilers in February 2007 and Matt Cooke and Raffi Torres dusted it up in the game. The next morning I ran something mocking Torres and I got a comment (I hardly got any those days) from someone at Orcabay wanting my email. I thought I had angered the wrong person; turns out someone in the Canucks organization wanted me to occasionally blog for them. Sonofabitch, someone was reading! And who knew mocking a ginger would get me a reward?
I've learned a ton from everyone the past couple of seasons, not just Vancouver bloggers and fans. But it's the comments, the feedback and every single fanpost and fanshot that keeps me going and forced me to be a far more knowledgeable and engaging Canucks supporter. Just look around this website or around Twitter; everyone has an opinion, a perspective, a story about this team. Without blogging, without you all, I'd still yelling at the TV alone in my living room (now at least I get to type out the curses). Though I rarely remove the thin veneer of my online persona, here ya go:
1. Pavel Bure - If you watched the video above (my apologies, face for radio), then this is obvious. Without Pavel Bure, chances are I never would have bothered to notice hockey outside of the casual observance ("Hey dude look, hockey fight!"). Bure wasn't perfect, he wasn't always a clean player, he wasn't durable in the long run and his divorce from Vancouver was ugly. Who cares? I'm happy to be one of the many Bure helped pull towards the game. His speed, strength and skill remain unmatched. There's a reason he draws parallels to Ovechkin: you wanted to watch him with the puck and see what he would do with it.
I only got to see him play once and that, unfortunately, was as a Ranger. The same night where Todd Bertuzzi upstaged him in his first MSG game. Quite frankly I hated rooting against him; it meant more to see Bure (even with that disgusting jersey on) than to watch Vancouver. It also taught me one unspoken truth about sports in general: watch the special guys when you can. Bure was gone too soon. One day the Sedins will be elsewhere and we'll have to explain to people learning to walk right now how unique and special it was to watch them play.
Anyway, Pavel Bure is a god. I'll hear nothing less.