May 13, 2011RATTO ARCHIVESHARKS PAGE SHARKS VIDEONHL PAGE VANCOUVER PAGESERIES SCHEDULE
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- According to Kyle Wellwood, the Shark who was a Vancouver Canuck in an earlier life, these Canucks are not his Canucks.
I think they re different than when I was there, the often invisible (except on the ice) wing said in the Sharks dressing room after Thursdays 3-2 victory over Detroit sent them to their second consecutive Western Conference final. They use their speed really well, they keep their heads up and theyre always looking to go forward with pace. When they had more guys like me (smallish, puck-control types), they would slow the game down more and try to do it that way. But theyre just difficult to play because of their work ethic and speed.
According to Todd McLellan, they would rather go through a fella than around one.
I think theyre a more physical team, the head coach after sweating the most difficult game of his career. Theyre more about running over you and then establishing their speed."
And according to Dan Boyle, theyre every bit as wacky as the Sharks.
Theyre like us, theyve gone through a lot, and their history is sort of like ours, the defenseman said. They have high expectations, and they havent always gotten to where they thought they should get -- a little like us.
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So the Canucks are a little bit of everything, starting Sunday at 5 p.m. in Rogers Arena. They share equal billing with the Sharks in what is the left half of the Bizarro World Conference Finals.
And we do mean Bizarro World. Three of the four semifinalists have frittered away three-game leads in series in the last two years -- Boston, a year ago, and the Canucks and Sharks this year, with the Bruins actually blowing the series. The fourth, the underestimated Tampa Bay Lightning, faced three elimination games in the first round against Pittsburgh before sweeping the Washington Capitals.
And theyre the normal ones.
But for purity of angst, fan base psychoses, and a gift for local impatience that even bank robbers would find off-putting, you dont beat this.
Vancouver has been to two Stanley Cup Finals, and lost both -- once to the overwhelming New York Islanders in 1982, and once to the not quite so New York Rangers 12 years later. Since that is the only Cup the Rangers have won in the last 71 years, You can see where teeth are filed down to the hurty parts here.
As a result, their fans do what Giants fans do not they administer rather than absorb torture. This is a town that most resembles a drumhead when it comes to their hockey team, and at these prices, theyve earned the right.
San Jose, on the other hand, has never sniffed a Cup final, and are 2-8 in the 10 conference final games they have played, in 2004 against Calgary and last year against Chicago. They are also half as old as the Canucks, and if the relationship to their fans can be turned into the answer to an SAT test question, it would be this:
The Canucks are to Vancouver as the 49ers are to the Bay Area. The Sharks are to the Bay Area as the B.C. Lions are to Vancouver.
Go look it up if it escapes you. Youre on the Internet already, for Gods sake.
In the next few days, Vancouver will try to impress upon the Bay Area its status as the Keepers of the Flame, Canadas Last Surviving Team, while dismissing Sharks fans as dilettantes and rubes. It is the way of their people when it comes to hockey, and you should not begrudge them their little quirks.
Conversely, Sharks fans will probably develop a dismissal of the Canuck fan base as hockey snobs and Bay Area wannabes, and will have to develop an instantaneous hatred for a team they have never really noticed much before now. These two teams have never met in the postseason, and rivalries are born in the spring, not in the winter.
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Besides, theres nothing about Vancouver that goes easily with Beat The . . . the home bases favorite chant. I mean, they tried with Beat De-troit, but it sounded like a lot of people trying too hard not to swear.
So this may actually be a series that has less to do with showing off to the other kids than it will be in resurrecting your own teams self-image. They both have missed a lot more than theyve hit, and their recent playoff history is pretty much one bad bounce away from perpetual shame.
No more. They both got by, and now that blowing a 3-0 lead in a hockey series is no more difficult than convincing a Giant to hit into a double play, they both can enter this series with clear minds and strong hearts.
It doesnt start getting really weird until Sunday night.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.