By Dan Rubin
There’s a part of me that, at the beginning of the Stanley Cup Final, didn’t mind losing to Vancouver.
As badly as I wanted the Boston Bruins to win the Stanley Cup, I didn’t mind it if the Vancouver Canucks were the team they might lose to. I looked at Vancouver as a city that never really won anything, save for two other Western Conference championships. I remembered Vancouver’s shining moment when Canada took the gold medal out of American hands in the Olympics and thought, “This city is a great hockey town. I really want the Bruins to win, but if they have to lose, at least it’s to a hockey town with a hockey tradition.”
That whole feeling evaporated since Game 5.
When the Bruins lost Game 1, I didn’t know a whole lot about the Alexandre Burrows biting incident. I didn’t really know about all their unnecessary physical play and I felt the emotion was riding high, but it was right where it needed to be. But then, after Game 1 and going into Game 2, something totally changed, taking my positive attitude towards the Canucks, their organization, their fans, and the entire nation of Canada with it.
I realized the Vancouver Canucks do not deserve to hoist the most storied trophy in sports. They do not, and if the game expects to maintain its integrity, the Gallery Gods need to shine down and deliver the Cup to Boston, a place where it can have restored integrity and respect.
From Games 2-5, I’ve learned to despise the players on the roster. Ryan Kesler, a hero of the 2010 Olympics, went from a hard-nosed agitator to a classless thug who got Shawn Thornton ejected from Game 3. The Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel are low-brow, as one of them strangled Andrew Ference to draw coincidental minors to the way they step on Tim Thomas in the crease. And Burrows and Maxim Lapierre became the two names synonymous with a brand of hockey that I absolutely hate.
Now, let’s put it out there that I’m totally biased. I’m a Bruins fan dating back to the dark ages of pre-lockout Sergei Samsonov, when we thought Hannu Toivonen and Andrew Raycroft were the saviors of the franchise. I’ve suffered through the immortal Dave Lewis era and my family blood goes back in Bruins lineage to Dit Clapper, Eddie Shore, and Milt Schmidt. So I’m totally biased when I get into further details why I hate Vancouver.
I hate Vancouver because they disrespect the game of hockey. The Bruins are a blue-collar, lunch pail team led by a coach who maintains respect for the contest on the ice (total 180 from my past assessment of Claude Julien, I know). They bring the intensity every night, and they do so in a way that is hard-nosed and physical. They hit you, they ram the game down your throat, and they score goals. They do it in a way that is reminiscent of the way the game used to be played, back when Terry O’Reilly, Mike Milbury, and Raymond Bourque skated for the local team. They’re different from the Bobby Orr era in that they’re not nearly as talented, and the game has completely changed. But they’re bred very much in the image of the time.
Vancouver disrespects the game through the European style of game that you’d expect from the Montreal Canadiens. Almost every guy on the roster wears the face shield, which, unless you’re legitimately protecting your face is used by guys like a PK Subban. They dive…badly. They hit after the whistle, they hook, they hold, and they don’t play the game honestly. They bend the rules by doing a lot of the things that Montreal does. It’s the reason I hate the Habs, and it’s now the reason why I can’t respect the Canucks.
But the hatred I feel for this team goes well beyond that. The Canucks disrespect the game and then take potshots at the way the game is played. Roberto Luongo tweaks Tim Thomas, constantly. After their Game 5 win, a game the Bruins should’ve won given Thomas’s performance (no big surprise there), Luongo said he would’ve saved the goal Thomas let in. He would’ve saved it because he stays in the crease, whereas Thomas is aggressive. He just let him have it. This is the same Luongo who was yanked from the Chicago series and Game 4 against Boston. Yet there he was, smug as ever, taking shots at a goalie that leaves his heart on the ice.
The Canucks complain. They whine. They appeal to the officials to “do something” about the bully Bruins. They do it in the press to bring heightened awareness to something that doesn’t exist, causing phantom calls and bad penalties. And they do it with the smug smirk that says, “I know exactly what I’m doing.” They are the ultimate in sell jobs, and they are selling something that referees bought in the early parts of the series. It’s disgraceful to see that, especially from a hockey purist sense.
What makes them the total package is the way the city gobbled it up. Canada hasn’t had a Stanley Cup winner since the Canadiens’ magical run of 1993 (when they won almost every game in overtime). They’ve had their chances, but no Canadian team has won hockey’s hallowed prize. And this Final is being portrayed as USA vs. Canada, no big surprise since that will sell A LOT of tickets.
But the way the city ate this whole thing is really a disgusting reflection of them. Before Game 5, they booed the American national anthem, which is a staple in Canadian arenas. But what I don’t understand is how they can do that when Kesler is American, and they have more American players than the Bruins do. As an athlete, I would never want to play for a team whose fan base does that. As an American, it made me want to cross the border and eat a hot dog while whipping someone with Old Glory. That’s poor form, especially when the Canadian Prime Minister, Steven Harper, is in attendance. It’s very bad publicity; especially given the NHL’s willingness to bring the game back to America’s hat.
The real striking reflection of the fans came before the same game, when a Boston television station did its pregame show outside the arena. Three teenage girls stood behind the set, yelling “Boston sucks.” One yelled, “America sucks.” Nobody so much as ushered them away. Boston fans aren’t saints, but that ratchets it up for me. It makes me want to be no better than them. It makes me want to tear their hearts out on the ice. And it fuels a fire for the Black and Gold that I hope drives them to two straight. I want to win the Cup on their ice just to ram it down their throats.
But the fact remains that this is still a good team one win away from hoisting the Cup. A Chicago newspaper mentioned the same things I just talked about above, saying how disgraceful it is that this team can put their names on the Holy Grail of Hockey. And, truthfully, it is. The Stanley Cup reflects pride, honor, and respect. It reflects the biggest names in hockey. People said that Tampa Bay and Anaheim didn’t deserve it because they weren’t hockey markets. They said the only true way for Sidney Crosby to match the heroes of years before was to get his name etched over and over again. Wayne Gretzky. Mark Messier. Bobby Orr. Bobby Clarke. Patrick Roy. Ray Bourque. Peter Forsberg. Mario Lemieux. Dit Clapper. All these players are ghosts of legends. All these players grace the Cup.
Maxim Lapierre and Alexandre Burrows are one win away from being in that same class. If the hockey gods care one bit about the legacy of those names, they’ll step in and give the Bruins enough strength and courage to win two games in a row. It’s the only way they’ll keep the legacy from being tarnished from a country, city, and fan base embracing everything wrong about the way people play the game.