Its been 120 days since the Vancouver Canucks won their last game of the 2010/2011 NHL season 1-0 in the Stanley Cup Final game 5 against the Boston Bruins. To the dismay of many Canucks supporters, all went downhill from this point on with Vancouver losing games 6 and 7 of the series and, consequently, the race for the cup by one game. 1. single. game. And I was there, in person, to witness that last victory and then followed the downward developments in front of the TV, culminating in the riots after the last game. All of this is history now and the NHL Season 2011/2012 just starting. And history will be made. Again. Hopefully by the Canucks.
I fell in love with the city of Vancouver well before I ever set foot on Canadian soil for the first time. Being constantly mentioned as one of the cities with the highest quality of living and featured in many travel magazines, I wanted to visit this place ever since I was a teenager. The portrayal of Canada being the underdog compared to its neighbor USA and Canadians being nice and friendly folks in the media (in Austria, at least) certainly sparked some of that interest.
In 2005, after interning in NYC for 6 months, I finally got to see Canada’s eigth-largest city. And one thing that I noticed right away was that, even though it was August and the hockey season well over, hockey was still dominating the headlines. Incidentally, I got there right at the time when then-Canucks winger Todd Bertuzzi was allowed to lace up his skates again after initially being suspended indefinitely by the league for his behavior during the Steve Moore incident. And the fact that, in the mid of summer, hockey made front page of both The Province and Vancouver Sun, was a clear indication as to how crazy this town really is about hockey. After touring GM Place (which would later be renamed to Rogers Arena), I was pretty much set that if I am going to support one NHL team, it will be the Canucks.
I was fortunate enough to come back to visit “Rain City” (Vancouver averages about 1200mm of rain per year) a couple of times after that and catch a few regular season games, since when would you ever get a chance to see NHL hockey up close in personal when living in Europe. When I moved to California end of 2008 however, I was able to start following the game much more closely than from overseas. I still can’t quite fathom why people would want to play hockey in places like San Jose or Phoenix (cause neither place has seen or ever will see a natural outdoor pond frozen over), but nevertheless, I still find hockey the most interesting of all major North American sports.
Stanley Cup Final 2011, Game 5
Fast forward to June 2011: Vancouver made its incredible run to reach the Stanley Cup Final and I had decided to visit my good friend Preet to watch game 5 at one of the many public viewing areas downtown. By some luck and the help of craigslist, I was able to score an actual ticket for the final, which did cost me quite some money, but in the end I felt that the chance of going to a Stanley Cup Final game might not come around again that often.
The atmosphere at the game was phenomenal, goose-bump-inducing in fact as you might be able to tell from the photos and videos I posted on Flickr. “I have been to 5 playoff home games so far, and each time the Canucks won” Michael, the guy in the seat next to me told me. Interestingly, he, a Victoria native, also got his ticket on short notice from craigslist on that very day. And Michael proved the be the lucky charm again this time with Maxim Lapierre scoring the only goal in the contest 4:35 into the third period. Needless to say, the city went crazy after the victory and my hands hurting the next day from high-fiving dozens of other Vancouver fans around the stadium and in downtown.
Despite all the optimism amongst Canucks supporters however, this turned out to be the last win for Vancouver in the final and Boston snatching the series 4-3.
All of this, nevertheless, is history now.
The new season has just started with Vancouver losing their first game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, EA Sports’ pick to hoist the cup in June 2012, in a shootout. Can the Canucks do what they did last year plus one more win? From what I have read, very few experts have Vancouver on their list of favorites for winning the cup. Does that mean they can’t do it? Of course not, but it will arguably be hard to top what the team accomplished last year in the regular season with winning the Western Conference, the President’s Trophy and Daniel Sedin winning the Art Ross Trophy. What can be learned from the past though is that the regular season means…close to nothing. So I guess we will have to wait until April 2012 when the playoffs start to see what the Canucks are capable of this time around. Assuming the Canucks will actually make the playoffs…but that is pretty much guaranteed, right? Right?