Time is a weird thing. As it marches on, unceasing, it can take with it many of the memories we have accumulated along the way. Others remain strong, and the emotions we attach to them, vivid as the moment it happened. It’s been 8 years since Alexandre Burrows scored this overtime goal and catapulted this franchise and the entire province on a crazy run. We’re not going to talk about how it ended today. No, today is about remembering what is for me at least, the best day ever as a Canucks fan.
First, let’s get some context. The Canucks started the journey in the 2008-09 season, and it was traumatic, to say the least. The tragic death of Luc Bourdon, a highly prized defenceman who was just starting to show his potential rocked the team. Add in the loss to free agency of Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison, and an era had come to a close in Vancouver as the team tried to move on from the Todd Bertuzzi/Steve Moore incident and build a new identity. They named Roberto Luongo captain at the start of the season, which rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, but in hindsight it wasn’t such a bad thing. They had a solid leadership group and it was just a recognition of what he meant to the team.
The Canucks beat out the Flames for the Division crown by a mere 2 points, and drew the St Louis Blues in the first round. The Canucks dispatched them quite handily, sweeping them in 4 straight, including the series clinching goal from Alex Burrows. They drew the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2nd round, and split the first two games in Chicago. After winning Game 3, things were looking good for the Canucks. But the Hawks would win 3 straight, and the seed that had been planted earlier in the season bloomed. A rivalry on par with some of the classic ones from days gone by. These teams hated each other and it showed.
A year later, and a busy summer for the Canucks. They re-signed Luongo, Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin to new deals. They lost Mattias Ohlund to free agency, but added Mikael Samuelsson and Christian Ehrhoff. They also signed Ryan Kesler to a 6 year extension. Again, they would win their division. The first round they had a tougher challenge this time out, but were able to take down the Los Angeles Kings in 6 games. That set up another 2nd round date with Chicago, and it felt like the result would be different this time. They won the first game of the series 5-1 and then got dismantled, losing the next 3. They managed to win Game 5 and stave off elimination, before a heartbreaking loss in Game 6 at home. I was at that game, and it was devastating. It did however give us this incredible moment:
The narrative was now set. They couldn’t get the big win. It’s all Luongo’s fault. Same old Canucks. The 2010-11 season saw the Canucks make a number of changes. Dan Hamhuis signed a 6 year deal. Keith Ballard and Manny Malhotra were brought in, along with Raffi Torres and they re-signed Aaron Rome, Jannik Hansen and Mason Raymond. Henrik Sedin was given the captaincy, and the team marked their 40th anniversary by winning their first Presidents’ Trophy, winning a franchise record 54 games that season. They’d now won their division in 4 of the last 5 seasons, but so many question remains, and they got louder as the hockey gods dealt them their first round opponent: the Chicago Blackhawks.
Things would be different this time, and it sure looked like it as they stormed out to a 3-0 lead. And then in Game 4 in Chicago, the wheels fell off. Four 2nd period goals and a lopsided 7-2 win let the Hawks back into this series. They followed it up with a brutal 5-0 loss at home and then lost 4-3 in OT to force a Game 7 in Vancouver.
I remember the feeling of dread all throughout that game. The thought of losing to that team again, especially after the season they’d accomplished was horrible. The Canucks got the early lead they were looking for, as Kesler and Raymond set up Burrows less than 3 minutes in. Chicago tied it on a Jonathan Toews goal in the 2nd, and at the start of the 3rd came a chance for Burrows to be the hero. Hauled down by Duncan Keith on a breakaway, Burrows is awarded a penalty shot. Corey Crawford would make the save.
It went to overtime, and on a failed clearing attempt by Chris Campoli, Burrows seized the moment and altered Canucks history.
I don’t care much for what it says about the history of this franchise. It is what it is. There are moments for every team that stand out, and it’s because this team and it’s fans have suffered so much that makes it so special. The reactions of fans are incredible to watch, as it truly felt like an exorcism of the demon that plagued this team.
This is why we love this game so much.
It’s tough being a Canucks fan right now. It’s always been tough. Today, just sit back and think about this. When it was a really great time to be a fan of this team. It’s gonna get better, and we’re gonna feel like this again. I promise. Thank you, Alex. Until they finally raise the Cup, this will be the best day.