How did it come to this? How is Game 7 penciled in? What foe has driven the President’s Cup winners to the ropes, especially after being down and out? These Canucks are beating themselves and I’m led to ask why the meltdowns? It’s not like Luongo hasn’t won a critical game in overtime and not made the momentous save seconds before the overtime winner to bring home the hardware before. The symmetry in this series is intriguing and may be the key. Are Lady Luck and Karma defeating them? Is it Fate? Is it Chicago? The Hockey gods? Or is it themselves? What ghosts are they fighting? Can they exorcise these demons?
Vancouver’s first game won: Chicago was outchanced, outhit, outscored, simply outplayed.
Chicago’s first game won: Vancouver was outchanced, outhit, outscored, simply outplayed.
I remember when I used to cheer for a team that thoroughly dominated. Before I was 5 years old, the Oilers had won 4 Stanley Cups within my lifetime. My first hockey memory was at age 6, when Calgary won the Cup. I can’t put the bitterness and disappointment into words. At that age, it was the first time the superhero didn’t save the victim before the episode finished. I moved to India from Edmonton when I was 7 and that year the Oilers would earn their fifth cup. I heard about it 2 months after it happened, when we went over to the next village and heard the news over the only phone in a 50km radius. But I wasn’t there to watch that episode and it felt like someone spoiled the ending.
When I moved back to Edmonton two years later, I have a vivid memory of someone updating me on what I missed. To this day I can’t remember who showed me the video or where I saw it (someone’s basement I think; it is a repressed memory). In one short ten minutes of eternity between me, the TV and the VCR, I had to absorb the trade of Wayne Gretzky, the drama around his wife, the Gretzky-led Kings eliminating Edmonton that year, the drastic personnel changes, etc. It was a true “End of an Era” compilation.
It was also one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. A few weeks later, I learned that Santa Claus wasn’t real on the school playground. I was in such a funk, my response was basically, “I don’t even care anymore.” The second that video finished, I ceased to be an Oilers fan. To this nine-year old, it seemed as if they weren’t the Oilers anymore and someone had replaced my team with the Evil Twin.
This bit of nostalgia was triggered courtesy of Tom Benjamin, a long-suffering Canucks fan when he linked to this video. As an aside, if I actually had a Stanley Cup winning-related memory, could I even call myself a Canucks fan?
Vancouver’s second game won: Confirmed that Vancouver was the dominant team. Where’s Chicago’s answer?
Chicago’s second game won: Confirmed that Chicago was the dominant team. Where’s Vancouver’s answer?
One benefit of my erstwhile-Oiler fandom is that I very quickly recognize when a team brings the killer instinct. The opposing team has to dig deep to respond. Both second and fifth games in this series were emblematic of this instinct. Watching Chicago in the second and Vancouver in the fifth, one had to ask if these teams had any answer. One also asks what happened to Luongo’s ability to make a save? What happened to Kesler’s goal-scoring touch? It’s as if they aren’t the Canucks anymore and someone has replaced my team with the Evil Twin.
Poor Canucks fans. In years prior, we knew going in that we didn’t have the best team with the best chance at the Cup. Long years of futility and a seeming endless stream of Hockey God’s urine had collectively warped the fanbase. Why not start planning the Parade route when Fate was against it? Lady Luck and Karma were bitches in cahoots and we didn’t care what they thought.
This year was different. This year we had a decent shot. Nobody in the fanbase openly talked about the Parade route. For one, it had already been planned during the previous 40 years. Secondly and more importantly, there was a recognition of this “being the year”. Can’t risk tempting Fate this time. Lady Luck and Karma, my you look lovely today? We bow before the Hockey Gods and pray they provide an umbrella so that the team could withstand the moments of downpour.
Vancouver’s third game won: Vancouver still won despite having the game taken to them by Chicago. You could say that Vancouver didn’t “earn” the win; Chicago didn’t “deserve” to lose.
Chicago’s third game won: Chicago still won despite having the game taken to them by Vancouver. You could say that Chicago didn’t “earn” the win; Vancouver didn’t “deserve” to lose.
The sign of a team outclassing its opponent – finding ways to win, despite being outchanced, outhit, outscored, simply outplayed. Following Game 3, everyone had pegged the Canucks to win the next game. I’m betting the same for the Blackhawks following Game 6.
Could this be the difference this year? The Blackhawks of the last two years would have won this series by now. They haven’t yet and, in fact, have been coming from behind for three straight games. The Canucks have already had two meltdowns and responded in Game 6. Had the Blackhawks not shat the bed the first three games, I’d wager that this series would have been over by now. Instead, the Canucks have one more try to knock these Blackhawks down. If the meltdown has already happened, do we actually have a 50-50 shot at winning Game 7? Again, I’m also betting that everyone has pegged the Blackhawks to win the next game.
I’ve followed my hockey teams devotedly all my life – first the Oilers and now the Canucks. I have yet to have a memory of me living and dying alongside a team that brought back the Silver from the war of attrition that is the playoffs. Nor has any other Canucks fan. If that were to happen, we would be just another Canadian hockey market; one with history, heros and taste of past glory. That’s all we want. To be just another fan. That hasn’t happened yet. Here’s hoping Game 7 changes that.
Lately, I find myself thinking, if Chicago had drawn any other opponent except the Canucks, would they have woken up and started playing like the Stanley Cup Champions? Then, I remind myself that this is a Chicago team that limped into the playoffs, that couldn’t get it up for the potential eliminating-game 82 of the regular season, and had to depend on the suckage of other teams to make it to the second season. They were running on fumes. The Blackhawks of the last two years would have won this series by now. Chicago’s Stanley Cup-winning team is no more. What the Canucks are fighting are ghosts in the truest sense; these fumes, these whisps o’smoke ‘n mirrors, these shells of Stanley Cup Champions. Can they exorcise these demons?