Rivalry. That little word that can sum up animosity and spite one fan feels for another team. I haven’t been a hockey fan for all that long, but I can see how quickly one can get caught up in one. When I first start watching hockey, my friends had a loathing for the Montreal Canadiens that bordered on the pathological. A Bruin would plow a Hab into the boards and they would be overjoyed. If the reverse happened, a string of innovative profanity would occur. That profanity would question the ref, the player, occasionally the player’s parentage, the opposing team, the city that team played in, etc.
For me, as much as I respect the sacred tradition of the Bruins/Habs rivalry, I could never be one of those fans that could reach that level of (rabid) intensity. The team that I found deserving of my distaste these last few seasons was the Vancouver Canucks. I will give them credit for their records. They do have a tendency to score the most points and win the President’s Cup. They have been the #1 seed in the Western Conference these last few years. As a numbers junkie, the numbers don’t lie. They’re a good team.
My distaste for the Canucks is how they earned those points. Seriously, when they were discussing Canadian divers at the Olympics last summer, I couldn’t help but think of the Canucks. They fight a little too dirty, and they (in my opinion) seem to be like the evil wrestlers of the 80s and 90s who have one player distract the ref while the other wrestler hits the good guy with a chair. I do not like their play style, it annoys the crap out of me.
That loathing was cemented in game three of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. For those who don’t remember it, here it is. Horton goes down, and the fans get quiet. Like those 80s wrestlers, the Boston Bruins rise with anger and proceed to decimate the Canucks in a 8-1 blowout. Timmy Thomas comes out of the crease to wipe the third dimension off Sedin. Thornton gets thrown out on a misconduct. Game four, Burrows decides to have a private war with Thomas.
Well, I could go probably write a short story on the loathing the Canucks earned from yours truly. In the end, the Bruins earned themselves a Stanley Cup Championship, and the Canucks went back to polishing their President’s trophies. It’s not just me who feel this way about the Vancouver/Boston rivalry. NHL.com decided to pick Head Coach Claude Julien’s brain about the active dislike these teams have for each other. In Coach Julien’s own words:
“No doubt. No doubt there is. And it’s basically just because of the rivalry and what was at stake. Before the Stanley Cup Final we would play Vancouver once or twice a year and they were games that were well-played and respectful, but there was a lot of stuff that happened in that Final that couldn’t help but create more animosity and it carried over. You saw last year when Vancouver came to Boston they were a determined team, trying to prove they were capable of beating us at home. They came in with vengeance and did a great job. It was a good game. I remember the unfortunate part when Milan Lucic got kicked out when he shouldn’t have been, but that’s where the animosity is and that’s where it started.
“I think it will last too. I’ve put myself in Vancouver’s shoes. When you look at everything you have to go through during a season and everything you have to do to make it to the Final, then you make it to Game 7, you’re at home and after it you’re left empty-handed — I know how I would have felt if I was on the other side. I understand their side of it. “I get excited playing Vancouver now much more than I did before. They’ve become big-time rivals and it just adds to the flavor of this game. You want to create some attention and some interest, and that’s what we’ve done. They circle us [on the calendar], we circle them.”
Now if we only had some hockey so we could watch this rivalry be cemented into history like the one we have with the Habs.