Written by: Sean McEachern (@sportsfanspeaks)
Wednesday, June 9th, 1993, and Kirk Muller bangs home the winning goal at 3:51 of the 2nd period to see the Montreal Canadiens to a 4-1 Game 5 win and series victory over the upstart Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings. It had been a ridiculous run for Les Habitants, getting Conn Smyth-goaltending out of Patrick Roy and winning 10 consecutive overtime games with clutch scoring from the likes of John Leclair and Eric Desjardins and the anniversary of the 100th presenting of Lord Stanley was celebrated on St. Catherine St. with a Molson Export fuelled/inspired riot which left most other Canadians explaining to all who would listen why the Habs “are not really Canada’s team.” What a crock. As Canadians we distanced ourselves from that team based on the emerging Quebec political situation which would come to a head with a separatist referendum in 1995 and of course because of the riot which always offends our delicate north-of-the-border sensibilities. But that team, the last Stanley Cup Champion to be composed purely of North American players, while not being traditionally tough, was gritty and determined and worthy of capturing the imagination on their improbable Cup run… and let me remind you… I am a Bruins fan!
It’s 2012 now as you have no doubt noticed and while many a young Canadian boy has realized the hockey dream of returning to their home towns in Saskatchewan or Prince Edward Island with Lord Stanley in tow, it has been 19 years since a True North city has celebrated hockey’s Holy Grail with the traditional store-front window smashing and Toyota Camry tipping and subsequent funeral pyre. Vancouver, in a brilliant show of "failing to understand the program" set the city aflame last year in defeat and in so doing cemented their legacy as the team most Canadians would like to see voted off the island. With my apologies to Melissa Harder, whose “Diary of a Canucks Fan” I have followed intently, the time has come to explain why a country, devoid so long of a championship is ready, willing and able to disassociate itself from a perennial President’s Trophy winner at the drop of a puck – assuming of course, as the LA Kings tweeted, you are “…outside of BC.” Let’s forget about the bandwagon mentality, which of course exists everywhere, although British Columbia has managed to take it to a whole other Barry Bonds monster-head steroid level – and focus on the real matter at hand – the team itself.
Nobody incites more dislike in a Canucks uniform than Ryan Kesler whose constant antics and pre-season naked pictorial have reduced hard-core hockey fans to tears of frustration and laughter. He was once held up as the poster-boy for modern 2-way NHL power forwards but his play has devolved significantly while his whining and Greg Louganis medal-winning dives have angered zebras and opponents alike all the while leaving himself out of position and his teammates exposed. While the 2012 playoffs continue to illustrate that team toughness and accountability are still values that sell the product to the TV viewer on either side of the border, Kesler’s soccer-style nonsense is doing nothing to endear himself to anyone who doesn’t wear a Haida Orca on their chest. The sooner he focuses on putting the puck in the net, the sooner the Canucks can skate a valid second line again and ease some of the pressure off the Sedins, who to their credit have shown a bit more angst and on-ice leadership than in previous years.
Understanding that hockey is game where the physical contact and razor blades on your feet can lead to a cock-fighting mentality come Championship time is a fact that is not often lost on the playoff teams of the modern era. Being called out is common and someone, anyone, answering the bell is the way it will always be – so all you Olympic purists who dream of triple toe-loop ringette-style hockey can either tune out now and remain unsoiled by this opinion or can enjoy watching constant re-runs of that Vancouver-based reality show – “Canuck Cups: What Could Have Been.” Answering the bell is defined as something other than chirping at your opponent in the manner of Alex Burrows and Maxime LaPierre and I believe that biting, fish-hooks and eye-gauging are all excluded too. When Erik Karlsson was on the wrong end of the Rangers’ Brian Boyle’s fist, the Senators sent Matt Carkner to deal with the offender who turtled rather gracelessly but the message had been sent and strangely the series has not been the same since as Ottawa attempts to win the hearts and imaginations of Canadian hockey fans ‘far and wide.’ You see, Carkner understands that while his “existence may be grotesque and incomprehensible to you,” we “need (him) on that wall” – an element to the game desperately missing from Alain’s Army as they continue to flounder in their pursuit of Lord Stanley. Might I humbly suggest that GM Mike Gillis spend the off-season actively seeking A Few Good Men not named Zack Kassian.
Oh sure, there are plenty of other reasons – Aaron Rome and Raffi Torres’ apparent ‘hockey plays’ last year, local and provincial media’s constant “Why us?” attitude and failure to objectively report anything Canuck and the lack of any so-called ‘character guys’ which enable fans to relate to a team other than their own – but the damage has already been done and whether the Canucks can survive the Kings and their Twitter account or not, from the Rockies east, the underdog Senators have already been granted the mantel of this year’s Canadian hopeful. Who knows, maybe we just like underdogs and that whole “We’re #1” chant just leaves us annoyed, beer thirsty and wanting to offer some helpful suggestions on storage options for your foam finger… just me standing ‘on guard for thee… Oh Canada…’ Until next time and always – keep your helmet on, your shirt tucked loose and your stick on the ice…
Written by: Matthew Blunk
The Philadelphia Flyers aren't the only NHL team keeping busy this summer.
One week after locking up left wing Taylor Hall with a seven-year contract, the Edmonton Oilers signed forward Jordan Eberle to a six-year, $36 million extension. The newly "man-strong" Eberle posted 34 goals and 76 points in 78 during the 2011-12 season, in a breakout campaign for the 22-year-old right wing.
Written by: Matthew Blunk
Amidst the uncertainty of this NHL offseason, with murmurs of a potential lockout to come, the Philadelphia Flyers have signed two more players to long-term deals.
Philadelphia signed forward Wayne Simmonds to a 6-year, near $24 million extension on Aug. 16. On Monday, the Flyers agreed to extend forward Scott Hartnell with a 6-year, $28.5 million deal. …
Written by: Matthew Blunk
1) Evgeni Malkin, C - Pittsburgh Penguins
2) Sidney Crosby, C - Pittsburgh Penguins
3) Claude Giroux, C - Philadelphia Flyers
4) Steven Stamkos, F - Tampa Bay Lightning
5) Jonathan Quick, G - Los Angeles Kings
6) Alexander Ovechkin, F - Washington Capitals
7) Henrik Lundqvist, G - New York Rangers