24 April 2007

How to Pick a Hockey Team

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This piece of shameless boosterism was written for the Bleacher Report.
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Chances are if you're reading this you're from south of the 49th parallel and looking to dabble in some NHL Playoff Hockey. This is because you're a sports fan and the sports buffet on your channel of choice includes hockey playoffs, and you've got time in the evenings and beer in the fridge, so hockey it shall be.

The big thing when entering into the realm of a new sport is which team to cheer for. It's a crucial 'decision' (if it can be called a decision) because it will determine the amount of frustration or joy you will get out of your hobby in the seasons to come. To that end I present food for thought as you decide which bandwagon to jump on...

Narrowing the Field


Your nationalistic instincts tell you to throw your lot behind a team from your country of America. But No! Do not listen!! This first point is crucial, for from it springs all other paths. There is only one 'true path': go Canadian. This will earn you huge respect from any hockey fan worth his or her pucks. Supporting an American team (that isn't Detroit or Chicago) will earn you only shame. Supporting Detroit will heap hatred upon your shame, and supporting Chicago will earn you heaps of disappointment. Canada invented and cherishes the game, and for you to maximize your time investment it's best to get on a welcoming bandwagon full of rabid fans which is why we should just agree that a Canadian team is where you want to stuff your boosterism.


2 Teams, 1 Choice

After Round 1 there are just two Canadian teams in the running, the Ottawa Senators and the Vancouver Canucks. Ottawa is a great team, and may progress in these playoffs, but they are a relatively recent addition to the National Hockey League, only entering the league in 1992. If you are not from Ottawa, or at the very least actually Canadian, you shouldn't get involved with a new team. It just isn't a good idea. By all means follow their progress, just don't go any further.

Instead, go with a team that has an illustrious NHL history stretching back to 1970. Go with a team that has tasted more than their fair share of play-off disappointment in the past, and are now on the brink of something great. Go with the Vancouver Canucks.

Fine-Tuning

Now that you've chosen the Vancouver Canucks you need to develop an appreciation for and understanding of this team. And back up your choice. Don't worry, I can help.

Reasons to Support the Vancouver Canucks

You Never Know What to Expect- The Canucks were picked as a Stanley Cup contender in 2005-2006 season. Instead, they imploded spectacularly at the end of the season and failed to make it into the post-season. This season they were expected to miss the playoffs. The season started with the Canucks posting one of the worst records in the first half of the season, before posting an amazing record of 32 wins 8 losses and 6 overtime/shootout losses in the period from after-Christmas untilt eh end of season. Why the turnaround? Because they're plucky, that's why. IN fact, their pluckiness and can-do attitude won them the Northwest division title and they went on to take a 3-1 series lead against the Dallas Stars in the first round. They then failed to score in the next two games allowing Dallas to come back from the brink and take the series to a Game 7. The Canucks managed to win in Game 7 by a margin of 4-1, despite being badly outplayed in the first period. Sports excitement does not get more topsy-turvy than that. The winning goal in Game 7 was scored by the all-time most popular player Trevor Linden.

Mr Canuck- Trevor Linden wears the number 16 and at 37 years old is the oldest member of the team. By far. He was forced out of the Canucks team by the arrival of Mark Messier at the start of the 1997-98 season. This period is not talked about by Canuck fans. It's too painful. After years in the wilderness he returned and after posting mediocre numbers during the season, he elevated his play so much that he scored the series winner against Dallas. In fact he only scores mind-bendingly important goals; he is the all time leading goal-scorer and point-getter in game 7s among active players. If a goal is not important Trev may miss even a gift-wrapped opportunity, but he always delivers come crunch-time.

The Coach is a Call-up The coach of the Canucks is a first-year Vancouverite named Alain Vigneault. He coached the Montreal Canadiens a few years ago but most recently was coaching Vancouvers farm team The Manitoba Moose. In his virgin season in B.C., Vigneault posted a franchise record for wins—and is now set on taking his overachieving underdogs deep into the playoffs. Watch him get the job done

Swedish Twins The Canucks pulled a draft coup when they drafted twin superstars-in-waiting Daniel and Henrik Sedin 2nd and 3rd overall in 1999. These twins look the same, dress the same and play the same. They drive the same make of car, and wear the same equipment, their point totals and games played differ by no more than +/- 3 at any one time. Identical twins have eerie 'twin powers' so they can tell when their sibling is in danger or just gave birth, or in this case is standing in front of the net ready to receive a preternaturally perfect pass to score a game-winning goal. It's awesome to watch.

Superstition- The Canucks went to the Stanley Cup finals only twice. Once in 1982 (25 years ago) and once in 1994 (13 years ago*). That means they go to the Stanley Cup final once every 12 seasons. Back a winner. Or if not a winner, at least a team destined to take the Stanley Cup Final to game 7. And 'third times a charm,' right? This is our season guy.
*Due to the lockout in 2004-2005 there was no NHL season, that means even though it's 13 years since our last cup challenge, this season is number 12. Perfect huh?

Best Goalie in the World- The Canucks have Roberto Luongo in net. he is the best goalie in the universe, for spectacular goaltending watch Luongo (you can also call him Bobbie Lu, Louie, or MVP, as you wish) keep pucks out of the net. In his first season with the Canucks he broke the franchise record for wins in a season, including one win where he got hit in the throat by a puck in practice, spent the night in a Montreal hospital, only to check himself out the next day and go on to post a shutout that evening. In this, his first post-season (in the preceding 7 seasons he played for perennially shitty Florida Panthers) he has a record of 4-3 with a 1.47 goals against average. It's worth noting that in each and every one of those losses his team-mates failed to score even 1 goal, which makes it tough for the goalie to win. But don't despair, the Canucks do have goal-scoring prowess.

Goal Scoring Prowess- Besides the aforementioned Mr Canuck and the Swedish Twins the Canucks have a defenceman named Sami Salo whose slapshot is faster than you've ever driven. They also have the only Danish player to ever play in the playoffs, a sparkplug named Yannick Hansen, a 6'4 giant named Taylor Pyatt, a redheaded brawler known as Jeff "Cowan the Brabarian" who gets ladies bras thrown on the ice everytime he scores, and, a couple of other guys who can, and sometimes do, put the puck in the net.

Towel Power When you see playoff hockey you see stands full of frenzied fans whipping white towels around in a circle. Some might call it silly, others might call it the best sportsfan activity since the wave, but Vancouver fans know it's our tradition. It began in our first run to the cup a quarter century ago. Hockey Legend Roger Nielsen was coaching the Canucks and the officating stunk so bad that he put a white trainers towel on a stick and waved it from the bench, surrendering to the crappiness of the calls.
When the Canucks returned home for the next game, they were greeted with an arena full of fans waving towels. A tradition was born. This one is easy to participate in at home, towel in one hand beer in the other, and let the hockey continue. Welcome to the bandwagon.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy this one very much. Almost makes me want to cheer for the 'nuks. I couldn't find it on the bleacher report, though.

    ReplyDelete