Tag Archives: sports

Those Lovable Canucks


Admit it, if you were playing a team

That had Burrows, Torres, Lapierre, Bieksa, Rome,

You’d hate them, too.

 

The defense are pricks

And all the Swedes are soft.

The goalie is a headcase

Swinging from shutout to shellshocked

Like a grease monkey during 80s night.

 

Their best player is an American

Who said, “I hate Canadians”

In the Canucks’ home rink

Before the gold medal game

Of the 2010 Olympics.

 

What’s not to like?

 

Their swarmy French-Canadian coach?

Their player agent cum GM?

Their refusal to play Cody Hodgson?

 

When I was six years old

I got a Bruins jersey and black hockey gloves

For Christmas and wore them all day

At my grandparent’s house singing,

“Janey Bainy was born in California…”

I don’t know why,

But with Orr in the house

It would have taken a miracle

For the Cup to be won in Beantown.

 

Oh wise and benevolent Hockey Gods,

I was a Canucks fan from the very first game

Forty years ago. I stayed up way past bedtime

Listening to so many losses

On a little red transistor radio

Hidden under my pillow in the farmhouse

Robson calling all the games

On the Hockey Nut Station.

 

I remember Don Lever

Hitting the post on Dryden with two minutes left,

And then again in overtime,

Before the Habs finally buried us.

 

When Smyl hit the post

In game one against the Islanders

I thought immediately

That our best hope to win

The game, the series,

Had just vanished.

 

Without fail, the wheels came off

The West Coast Express

Every springtime,

Or some stupid Euro scored

On his own goalie,

Or the New York Oilers

Stacked the odds against us

To break a slump longer than our own.

 

Oh Hockey Gods,

Have we, the faithful,

Not endured enough?

 

Is another game seven

Just one more torture

To test our worthiness,

The intensity of our desire

To see the city’s name etched

On an old silver mug?

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Hart is Hank’s

At the NHL awards, Henrik Sedin scored another first for the Canucks franchise by becoming the first local player to win the Hart Trophy. He follows in the footsteps of many Hall of Famers who won both the Art Ross (scoring title) and the Hart (most valuable player to his team) in the same year, including each of the players from 1966-1970: Hull, Mikita, Esposito and Orr. Heady company!

Now, how about another first, a Cup! Since Chicago won this year (their last one was 1963), only the Leafs, Kings and Blues have waited longer than the Canucks to hoist the Stanley Cup.

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Hank, meet Art!

The Canucks have been in the NHL for 40 years, and for the first time in franchise history they have the league’s scoring champion. Henrik Sedin broke Pavel Bure’s old team mark of 110 points to claim the Art Ross Trophy this season, getting 112 points to beat out mega-stars Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin (both with 109) for the scoring title. Congratulations Hank!

Back in 1970, the Art Ross Trophy went to Bobby Orr, the first and only defenceman in league history to win the Art Ross Trophy. Check out the impressive list of Hall of Famers who won it in the years leading up to 1970. Check out also the incredibly lucrative prize money the NHL used to pay out to the trophy winners! Even in 1970 dollars, it’s pretty laughable…

1970 OPC hockey card #262.

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Sedins Work their Magic

It’s not often one gets to meet the NHL’s leading point scorer. But yesterday, my son went to a friend’s birthday party at Douglas Park and, when I went to pick him up, the birthday boy’s dad took me aside and, in a hushed voice, said, “Don’t tell anyone, but one of the Sedin kids is having a birthday here in an hour. You want to hang out and see if the kids can meet some Canucks?” We’re both hockey dads, so the answer was obvious.

About an hour later, Daniel Sedin and family pulled up, followed shortly by Henrik, Kevin Bieksa and Mikael Samuelson. They all had little kids in tow, and were all happy to sign autographs for the little group of kids who had gathered in the parking lot outside the gym. Needless to say, my son and the other kids were on speed wobble they were so excited, and the smiles were a mile wide. It was quite a thrill for them to meet these guys.

Interesting to note that, rather than play floor hockey for his kid’s party, the Sedin troupe were playing soccer in the gym. Ah, Europeans…

(Henrik’s auto at top — not even sure if it’s the right way up, the two squiggles are his number, 33. Next one is Bieksa, and below is Samuelson. We didn’t get Daniel’s, unfortunately.)

Anyway, this all reminded me of back when I was a wee tot and hockey-crazed youth about the same age as my son is now. My father was returning from a business trip in Toronto and, whenever he returned from a business trip, always brought us kids a little gift, usually some airport gift shop thing. This time, however, he handed me a sheet of paper with all the Boston Bruins’ signatures on it, including my (and every other kid’s) hero of that era, Bobby Orr. Wow, I was over the moon! He had happened to be on the same flight as the Boston Bruins on their way into town to play the Canucks and managed to get most of the team’s autographs, including, yes, Bobby Orr, as well as Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge, Carol Vadnais, Gary Doak, Al Sims, Andre Laval and Dave Forbes.

Of note, the year was 1975 and, for those who know hockey, that happened to be the same road trip when Phil Esposito, while in Vancouver, got told he had been traded to the New York Rangers in what was one of the biggest trades of all time. Bobby Orr went on to win the scoring title one last time that year, but his knees finally gave out and he never regained his magic, eventually getting signed by the Black Hawks (thanks to some shenangigans by his agent, the much-hated Alan Eagleson). Orr played a handful of games over the next two years and then was forced  to retire at the young age of 30. The Big Bad Bruins would never be the same without Orr and Esposito….

Olympic Hockey Afterthoughts

Prayers are Answered, Whereas Taunts are Avenged

I found this from CDC Sunday morning, before the Gold Medal hockey game:

“Our Father, who art in GM Place, HOCKEY be thy name, thy will be done. GOLD shall be WON on ice as well as in the stands. Give us this day our hockey sticks and forgive us our penalties, as we forgive those who crosscheck against us. LEAD US not into elimination but deliver us TO VICTORY, in the name of the fans… …CANADA… and the Holy Puck. AMEN!! GO CANADA GO!!!!!!!!”

As you can see, unlike the heathen Americans, who indulge in crude battle irony, we Canadians always show due reverence in our parodies.

A Goal Scorer’s Goal

Yes, the Hockey Gods are just. Team USA lost honourably, but when you are so close to winning, it’s makes it that much harder to lose, eh? This was by design, no doubt.

So it must have really stung to push us to overtime with a last minute goal, and feel like another miracle on ice was about to be performed, only to see some kid come flying into the zone, jumping onto the backs of two defensemen in an effort to break through, a kid with wide eyes and determination, a kid who’s unrelenting, who wants it that freakin’ bad.

He beats the defencemen to the puck in the corner and cuts up the boards where the ref tries to check him. But he pokes it down to Iginla to get the cycle going, then streaks towards the net for a give-and-go. Jarome eats a hit to deliver the pass.

And now it’s just some kid on Britannia Ice Rink or a frozen prairie pond, alone with the goalifor the next three seconds, dreaming of scoring the winner against the Russians or during game seven of the Stanley Cup final. The moment might as well be played out in a garage as the frozen River of the Water of Life.

The kid has maybe 15 feet to work with, so the next touch of the puck is of the utmost importance – what, where, when, why. How? Deke, wrap around, snap shot, fake, backhand or forehand? This one touch will determine everything that happens next.

And where most players would still be focused on controlling the puck, the kid gets his head up. And that is crucial, that is everything.

He sees all he needs to see to make his decision in a blink of an eye: the goalie’s hand sliding up the stick for a poke check, the five hole opening for the split second it takes to knock the puck off the shooter’s stick.

Because he got his head up, the kid sees all that, and now he knows he has an even smaller split of a second to react, to get the shot off and hit the tunnel of light that’s opening up between the goalie’s pads.

When a boxer sees the shoulder drop and a roundhouse coming, there’s a brief opening to throw a straight jab. When the safeties are blitzing, the quarterback has a second to find an open receiver.

When Goliath is rushing at you across the desert, his forehead glistens in the sun.

The risk-reward of aggression is huge because there is always a moment of naked weakness revealed. And if it gets exploited, if you are beaten to the punch, it can cost you a touchdown, a knockout, a golden goal. It can kill you.

For pure scorers, the act is second nature, instinctual, adrenal. It’s been rehearsed a thousand times before in basement hockey, floor hockey, ruler hockey, barn hockey, kitchen hockey, road hockey as well as on the pond, river, lake and in the rink…

Opportunity and execution: snipe.

The kid pulls the trigger so fast he doesn’t even see it go in. He just hears the roar of the crowd and knows he’s done it, delivered jubilance to millions across the country.

At just twenty-two, he has already earned his wings.

Celebrate.

Religious Fervor

The endless street parties that took over the city during the Olympics reminded me so much of 1994, and how incredible it was. Walking around downtown on Sunday night was like the atmosphere after Game Six vs. the Rangers: utter euphoria. It’s been 16 years!

But the crowd was bigger on Sunday, and having been caught up in the Game Seven riot in 1994, I shudder to think what would have happened if we had lost to the Americans? In Canada, one goal separates tens of thousands of happy, high-fiving drunk guys and an angry, violent mob. And this time, the Army was ready to intervene. They were everywhere. Imagine that end to the Vancouver Olympics and I guess you can understand why 1 billion was spent on security.

Such is our religion.

The Redemption of Bobby Lou

After suffering through a week of Pang, Kypreos, Mackenzie, Hodge, Ferraro and every other analyst on TV calling Luongo shaky and questioning his ability to win big games, it sure was nice to see him with the gold medal around his neck at the end of it all.

For Canuck fans, the script was almost as compelling as the Crosby winner. Luongo is a class act all the way, and the Rodney Dangerfield treatment he’s had dogging him since the Hawks knocked us out last spring has never seemed just. The guy gives his heart and soul every minute. He wears Johnny Canuck on his mask. He reveres Martin Brodeur. He simply loves the game.

But Vancouver has been known as The Goalie Graveyard since the 1970’s, and I have to admit that I have wondered if Luongo might eventually get claimed, too. I mean, wow, the Gold Medal game in Vancouver? The potential for a horror show – like the boos for Team Canada in 1972 at the Pacific Mausoleum – was certainly there. And shit, the city could have been ripped to shreds if you let in another goal. Now that’s pressure.

But let’s face it, Luongo is easily the best goalie the Canucks have had in 40 years in the NHL. If anyone deserves to come out a winner, it’s a guy like him. Demitra couldn’t beat ya’. You got the last laugh on Kane. The media is finally playing a different song.

And tonight, even in Detroit the “Looo’s” were ringing out all night long!

The Holy Grail

As we all know, hockey’s true grail is silver, not gold. And post-Olympics, I am suddenly optimistic about the Canucks’ chances of taking a run at the Stanley Cup this year. Luongo has a 400 pound gorilla off his back, Kesler and Burrows forecheck and backcheck harder than anyone in the league, Demitra looks like he’s 25 again, Henrik and Daniel seem to be toying with defencemen most shifts.

Who knows?

The Hockey Gods Aren’t Singing, “No, Canada”

Apparently, Americans are heathens. They do not believe in the Hockey Gods. Posting a desecration of Canada’s national anthem on the ESPN website today after last night’s 5-3 USA victory over Canada proves that they are unenlightened infidels, with no moral compass.

They lack the fear of God.

And they shall be smited down for their insolence.

The Hockey Gods are not amused…

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No Canada (as posted on espn.com)

No, Canada

You lost to Uncle Sam

We’ll take the gold

You laid down like a lamb

With frying pans you tended goal

We scored on you at will

From far and wide, Oh Canada

We’re scoring on you still.

God keep your nets

Wide open and emp-ty

O Canada

We scored five goals on thee

O Canada

U.S. with gold you’ll see!

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(The day after losing 5-3 to the USA: Vancouver Sun picture of Roberto Luongo and Martin Brodeur at practice Monday morning at Brittania Ice Rink (my son’s home ice hockey rink for his first two years playing). Canucks’ Luongo gets his chance in goal for the rest of the Olympics after Brodeur’s weak performance against USA on Sunday.) 

Alexandre Bilodeau: Living My Olympic Dream

So there I was, standing at the top of the bump run on the Whistler glacier in late July 1980, hoping I could pull it off. I stood in second place after the first run, and the guy in first place was the Japanese moguls champion and veteran of the Pro-Am freestyle circuit. At age 13, it would be a hell of an upset if I could pull this off and beat a pro who was twice my age. But I wasn’t thinking about that. I was focused on picking my fall line, envisioning each mogul I would hit, and keeping my back straight as my knees pumped up and down.

This was Tony Sailer’s Summer Ski School, which I attended for a couple of years back in the day. Tony Sailer, the Blitz from Kitz, was an Austrian ski legend. In the 1956 Olympics at St. Moritz, he won gold in all three alpine events – downhill, super G and slalom. He was a huge star in Europe, and was routinely chased from the hill by adoring fans whenever he won a race. He was the first Olympic champion I ever had the chance to meet, and on several occasions, the kids even got to run slalom against him at the ski school. Trust me when I say: we never won.

But moguls was my specialty, not slalom. At Whistler, I used to ski Chunky’s Choice (named after Chunky Woodward, the department store, uh, mogul) all day. It was the best black diamond moguls run at Whistler back then, serviced by the old Blue chair, now long gone. On a typical day, I might do it 30 times. Oh the knees! But I never felt a thing.

At the start of the 1980’s, it was rumoured that freestyle was going to become an Olympic sport and, if it happened, I’d be hitting my prime right about then. It was my dream (for about 2 years) to be the first person to ever win an Olympic gold in moguls competition.

So, today, when freestyle skier Alexandre Bilodeau stood in B.C. Place and accepted another first — Canada’s first gold medal won on home soil — I have to admit that I felt a real tug of emotions as the anthem was played. Sure, I never went on to Olympic glory, but wow, there was that old dream, deep inside me, suddenly pulled out of my memory store and up on display again after all these years. Amazing.

And yes, that day in late July 1980, I pulled it off. I had the run of my life. At the awards ceremony on the last day of camp, Tony Sailer announced through his thick Austrian accent to the whole ski school that I was “The kid with the hottest run on the mountain today.” It was like a dream going up on stage at the Whistler Creek Hotel, in front of all those hotshot skiers, and getting a (faux) gold medal put around your neck by an Olympic champion and true legend. I’ll never forget it.

Tony Sailer, I’m sad to report, died last year at the age of 73.

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The above photo was taken during my glorious gold medal-winning bump run on Whistler Glacier in 1980. The photo is pretty beat up and a little out of focus, but that’s me! Notice the K2 skis (160 cms), the K-Way jacket, and yes, the huge mirror shades that were all the rage back then! Stylin’, eh?

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