Ratto: What should Sharks expect in Vancouver?


Ratto: What should Sharks expect in Vancouver?

Ray Ratto

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.

RELATED: Sharks-Canucks series schedule

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.

RELATED: Canucks had edge in season-series over Sharks

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.

A's stripped of little-engine-that-could classification at a bad time


A's stripped of little-engine-that-could classification at a bad time

As rumored over the past two months, Major League Baseball just lowered the Oakland Athletics’ revenue by $34 million, and now all the other developments of the past few weeks have finally become a call to arms by an organization that has always been strident pacifists when it comes to money.

In other words, The Little Engine That Occasionally Could has now been stripped of its little-engine classification, and the conditions that allowed them to play the cute little underdog are gone. No more waiting for more clement economic circumstances, or a more favorable political climate, or for the ever-nebulous “future” which the A’s always dangled before its dwindling fan base.

That was the news of Wednesday. Thursday, reports from ESPN’s Jim Trotter indicated that San Diego Chargers owner Dean Spanos is going to swallow his pride to exercise his option to join Stan Kroenke in Los Angeles, thus reducing Mark Davis’ viable options to Las Vegas and the tender mercies of the NFL, or Oakland and the tender mercies of whoever decides to tackle the problem of a new football-atorium.

In other words, push and shove are now jockeying for position in what is expected to be a crash.

First, the A’s.

With the news that Major League Baseball is going to hack the team’s revenue sharing check by 25, 50, 75 and then 100 percent over the next four years, the margin of error for new front man Dave Kaval to get a stadium built has been reduced to those four years. He is following the dictates of his boss, the persistently hologrammatic John Fisher, who essentially shoved Lew Wolff out the door for preaching San Jose and then caution.

The A’s don’t want to share anything with the Raiders, which rules out a Coliseum site. They have investigated Howard Terminal, which is not without its issues. And there is a new darkhorse site, the land around Laney College which, in a tart bit of irony, is the site of the Raiders’ first Oakland home, Frank Youell Field.

The city and county are in the early stages of a deal to sell the Coliseum land to a group faced by Ronnie Lott and the money-moving Fortress group, and get out of the landlord business entirely. It has pledged somewhere between $190 and $200 million in infrastructure improvements, though in the case of two stadia, the question of whether that amount is split remains to be politicized.

But the real point here is that the Gordian knot that is Oakland’s weird hold on its franchises remains tightly raveled. The Fortress announcement was supposed to be a point of clarity, but the revenue sharing news and now the Chargers-to-L.A. rumors have returned chaos to its usual position at the tip of the food chain.

And chaos makes for hasty decisions, and hasty decisions are often regretted. But hey, what’s life without rich people awash in regrets?

The new developments ratchet up the pressure on the City of Oakland and Alameda County to decide what support – if any – to provide a new A’s stadium, and coincidentally what support – if any – can be provided to the Raiders if they are forced to stay in Oakland by the NFL.

It even ratchets up the pressure on the NFL owners to decide among themselves whether their actual end-game goal – to have the Raiders controlled by someone other than Mark Davis – is better served by allowing him to move his team to Las Vegas or denying him his escape route.

But now for the first time there are time constraints – a few months for Mark Davis, a few years for John Fisher and Dave Kaval. The principles of subsidized Moneyball are now conjoined with the principles of Darwinism, and as the A’s have had innovate-or-die thrust upon them, the Raiders have approached the day of reckoning they’ve been desperately kicking down the road since Al Davis’ death. Plus, the political structures of Oakland and Alameda County will catch the holiest of hells either way, and probably across the board.

But as Paul Weller once wrote, “That’s entertainment.” Find shelter, children. The acrid smell of roasting money is in the wind.

Defying common sense makes another official look inhuman


Defying common sense makes another official look inhuman

Officials are a pet cause of mine, since they are uniquely hired and set up for daily failure as a condition of having the job at all. They are given a supervisory role against a group of mesomorphs running, jumping, colliding and athletick-ing all over the place, only so that they can interpret a rulebook written in Cambodian script in such a way that he or she angers everyone involved, and is supported by none of the people who gave him the rulebook to defend.

But sometimes, despite all this, officials need to be left alone to apply common sense in direct defiance of the dictates of the bloated swine who made the rulebook a tool of the socially ignorant.

And no, I am not talking about Doc Rivers snapping like a stretched bobblehead the other night after Ken Mauer tossed him from the Los Angeles Clippers-Brooklyn Nets game for being geographically inappropriate with fellow official Lauren Holtkamp (he crossed the midcourt line, and curb your dirty minds). Screw him. He had it coming.

No, this is about Frank Schneider, who refereed the otherwise unremarkable Paris Saint Germain-Angers match in Ligue 1, the top division of French soccer, and felt compelled to yellow-card PSG goalscorer Edinson Cavani for doing this.

For you link-averse weenies, Cavani scored a goal and then took off his shirt to reveal an undershirt that read “ACE FUERZA” in support of the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense, the team involved in the plane wreck that killed 77 of 81 passengers, including all but a few of the team’s players and staff en route to the championship match of the Copa Sudamericana in Colombia against Atletico Nacional.

It was a thoughtful gesture, one we want our athletes to produce to show that they are not just mercenaries with expensively shod feet. It was a credit to Cavani, who is Uruguayan and who knew none of the players involved. He did it to be a human being.

And Schneider knew that. But the rules say he had to give Cavani a yellow card for removing his shirt as an act of celebration or in this case, sympathy, and if Schneider had ignored it, his supervisors would have punished him knowing full well that ignoring it was exactly the correct and decent thing to do.

This right here is one more reason why people hate officials, even more than they used to. They are not allowed to apply their own common sense to a situation that demands it, and if honoring fellow athletes who died in an accident doesn’t demand the common sense of saying, “Heartwarming thought there, Scooter. You’re a good lad. Run and frolic with the other woodland creatures, unconcerned with any notion of punitive action.”

Maybe Schneider walked up to him as he presented the card and said, “Listen, this is crap. You know it and I know it, and I will back your play in the game report, but I have to do this. Please find it in your heart to forgive my bureaucratic obligations.”

That’s not the zenith of understanding as we would wish it, but it would be a way to try and shield Cavani from the withered arm of the law.

Or maybe Schneider said, “I give this card to you in my role as a strident and iron-willed defender of mindless regulations. I spurn you as I would spurn a rabid wolf.”

I don’t know. All I know is, Schneider ends up looking stupid for carding Cavani for supporting his soccer-playing brethren, and officials across the globe cry out as one, “You put him in a ridiculous position, you suit-wearing filth. Where is your compassion? Where is your dignity? Why can’t we line up in an orderly fashion and kick you squarely in the groin 30 to 70 times?”

And a decent human instinct is stamped out as though it were caught stealing office supplies.

You can extend this lesson as far as you wish, including the No Fun League’s old-white-guys fetishistic ban on post-touchdown self-expression, but right here is where that sort of mockable nonsense starts. People died, some of them soccer players. A fellow soccer player honored them on the field of play without disrupting the game itself. He was sanctioned. This is idiocy.

But Doc Rivers getting flipped in Brooklyn? Sorry. There’s only so far we can go with this, and in this case, well, to quote the old philosopher, “Nice tantrum, Glenn.”