As fans and hockey players alike look forward to the best time of the year, the intensity of course gets ramped up with it. The corollary to the final scene of this modern standard of comic book villain and hero is perfect for the hockey fan in any city. It all depends on who is the Joker and who is Batman. Which makes the playoffs a Stanley Cup Gotham, and how cool is that?
The hyperbole will get ramped up, from all sides, to mythic levels. Talk of potential opponents, hopefully along a long road for Canuck fans, will be a popular topic for a Canadian media that will inevitably paint the plucky Senators as a dark horse. Allusions will be made that our particular hockey team is the most hated in all the land, and this will be once again a topic foisted upon us. This time, they will have a year in which the team itself had perhaps the "cleanest" ( the only team not fined or suspended, and the one with some of the longest suspensions for some of the dirtiest plays all year being victimized ) season to give them a stark contrast with the "reality". Expect, for instance, that Ryan Kesler will become almost comically described as the main sailor aboard the Good Ship DoucheCanuck.
OK, perhaps they have a point there. He could talk less between whistles. ( I thought we were over this last year! ) Never mind the fact that every other team that has got this far has guys that play the same way. That talk more, are dirtier, and complete the same type of role as the Livonia Michigan native.
It all depends what side you are on, and through that lens all those type of value judgements become suspect. Me? I watched a season where Alexandre Burrows was more productive in all categories compared to last year, should be as lauded as Scott Hartnell, and just is not. Yes he already has 12 roughing minors, but only 1 unsportsmanlike. Scotty is 10 to 1, but perhaps the fact he has dropped the gloves 4 times to Burr's none helps. ( he is an inch taller and 22 lbs heavier!) Value judgements are a tricky thing with shades of grey.
Maybe he does need to work on that like Maxim Lapierre, who has embraced the idea of playing hard and "knowing your role" as definitively as any one player in the league. He did try to fight last year, but this year actually worked on that skill with Bieksa. Seven times he committed to that act. Winning them is arbitrary, in much the same way it is ignored on your own team that has a similar player who is also fan favorite, instead pointing to his 128 PIM that lead the team, ( and ignoring the fact that the spearing major was immediately rescinded the next day ), seeing the 5 misconducts and neglecting to realize that most of those this year were for sticking up for a teammate. All of that is just as easy to spin the other way if you try hard enough. Max is going to have a rep anyhow, and that is what it is, no matter what. Refs are human, but even they have to be impressed by the change.
Consider as well that a player who plays that robustly, has done so without being to the principal's office once. Hell, mom and dad Canuck have not even gotten a call from the office!
Is it starting to get fuzzy as to who is wearing the cowl and who is wearing the funky makeup?
Personally, I don't mind the rep when the players on my team do things like bite, or dive, or whatever. But I am also a sage hockey fan, and know that those that assign nobility to their own warriors while bestowing the mantle of "the most arrogant, or dirty, or just plain wrong" upon another team as a result are making ridiculously specious assertions. Its literally in the definition of the word.
specious |ˈspē sh əs|adjectivesuperficially plausible, but actually wrong : a specious argument.• misleading in appearance, esp. misleadingly attractive : the music trade gives Golden Oldies a specious appearance of novelty.
"Misleadingly attractive". Add to that how we will all look for the stats and the like to zealously prove our point, right or wrong. For instance, if I said, ( the Canucks are 5th in the NHL in PIM/game, but only 10th in majors, with 41, compared to the Rangers 65. Yet the Canucks 322 minors is tied with the Kings, a team that is Top 2 in hits ) then reason (" the refs hate the Canucks", and obviously love one of "Gary's teams" ) and you can also see a team that is no more dirty or not than others, if you so desire.
They fight enough to not be pushed around ( and have players like Mad Max that actually worked on being tougher to contribute more ), get called for maybe a few too many minors,( though, check the "times shorthanded" stat. 23rd in league at home, 116 times,with Pittsburgh shorthanded 3 more times, and Philly leading at being "undisciplined" with 160 kills to make. Yet, in total times shorthanded, this team is at 289, which is 8th, with the Kings having 5 more to date. Thats a hell of a lot more calls on the road than at home. Uh oh, here we go right?
But what does any of the above tell you? Apart from making Tony G' sit up like a bloodhound and go "AROOOOO" as he realizes another column idea, not much. Anyone can go down those roads ( for instance, how does two of teams that play in the Atlantic and NorthEast, where everyone goes nuclear as the first option, have the Rangers and Bruins lead the league in majors by a goodly portion, and yet sit currently 10th and 12th from the bottom in total times shorthanded. Anyone that has watched those teams cannot point at "discipline" with a straight face, can they? They can easily, if so nattily attired in a tinfoil chapeau. Its simple to point out the "Original Six teams getting all the breaks", because its easier and sounds more fun. Of course, that neglects the Wings and Hawks, who both occupy spots in the middle of the pack, and 2nd overall as the team that takes the least penalties to kill ( something they are repeating from last year ) respectively. But never let facts get in the way of a good hockey argument, especially in the second season.
That is why the Joker seemed apt. Its so damn easy to get into those numbers and see what you want to see. We all do it. Fans of all teams in the NHL will all think that this team or that one is the most arrogant, dirty, or whiny. While I will point out that this season has shown our Stanley Cup Champians to be pretty dirty and whiny, with the head to head classic providing a perfect snapshot of the dichotomy of "good and evil" between the Canucks and their opponents last June, that is up to the other hockey fans to decide as a whole. Hopefully they are not swayed by the Jack Edwards of the world. The evidence of an entire season has shown me, admittedly a fan of the team, as a bunch that don't get too caught up in the talk, overall. Thats good enough for me, and its a losing proposition to try to politic with those that will not be convinced regardless. We ( the collective "we" ) are an passionately obstinate bunch.
Certainly, I would hope that the fans in my own country would try to adopt Canada's Best Cup Hope once again, last year showed us all that the opposite is probably going to happen. Like the team itself, we fans have a year of more experience in dealing with it. We have developed our playoff "skin" perhaps, and will let it all bead up and slide away. But get ready, because, depending on the matchup, it may be a "narrative" pushed by our opponent as early as the first round. The Sharks are famously whiny, ( and as famously obtuse to their own bullshit. Looking at you Ryane Clowe and Joe Thornton ), and all you have to say is Drew Doughty is a diver in Youtube to find the truth in the nutty shell they would envelope that series in.
The truth is, the Vancouver Canucks have some guys that are hard to play against and sometimes push the line, just like every other team in the league. There are players all teams' fans can point to on the opposition and find a truthful statement. So what? We love Ryan Kesler, and think Kevin Bieksa is as funny as he is talented. Sue us...
By the way, Penguins of the city of Pittsburgh. Thank you so much for the events of the last few games your team have had to rocket up the list of the "most hated team in hockey". If your fans want to defend that simply awful Brook Orpik attempt to injure, and or explain exactly how Mike Milbury is a tool for being a little right about Sidney Crosby, by all means fill your boots. Canuck fans will tacitly agree on the Milbury one, and the other might bring you up in the "most hated fans in hockey" poll next year.
Maybe the Pens can be the "most hated team in the U.S.A" ? I would imagine that the Canucks already have that title sewn up North of the 49th, regardless of how dated and "last year" it is. You know networks on both sides of the border would wet themselves over THAT Finals matchup.
But on the way there ( hopefully, don't want to sound arrogant ) Canuck fans, lets keep our sticks down, let the others run their mouths at the refs, and just enjoy the ride, so to speak. Last year, we let those bastards take away some of that enjoyment by taking the bait. This year, fuck em if they can't take a joke, right?