Ray Ratto

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.

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Phrase that Matt Joyce left out of his apology is key to talking the talk

Matt Joyce said the word, he did the apology, he’ll do the time, and then we’ll see if he’ll get the forgiveness he asks.
Joyce’s two-game suspension by Major League Baseball for using a gay slur at a fan during Friday’s Athletics-Angels game in Anaheim is well within industry norms (though it might have been more tactically impressive if the club itself had issued the suspension), and his apology did not deflect blame or contain the always-insincere caveat “if I offended anyone.” He did offend people and he knew it, so he didn’t couch it in the phraseology of “I don’t think what I said was improper, but I’ll do the perp walk just to get this over with.”
He even offered to do work with PFLAG, the support group that supports the LGBTQ community, thereby putting his time (which is more meaningful than money) where his mouth was.
In other words, he seems to have taken his transgression properly to heart, which is all you can really hope for, and now we’ll see if he is granted the absolution he seeks.
You see, we’re a funny old country in that we talk forgiveness all the time but grant it only sparingly, and only after a full mental vetting of important things like “Do we like this guy?” and “Is he playing for my favorite team?” and “Do I feel like letting him up at all?”
In other words, forgiveness is very conditional indeed.
Joyce said what he said, but his apology seemed to be given freely and unreservedly rather than crafted to meet a minimal standard of corporate knee-taking/arse-covering. If he follows through on his offer to do face-to-face work with PFLAG or an associated group and absorbs the lesson of not using other people as a weapon for his own frustration, then he ought to be acknowledged for doing so. That’s what forgiveness is.
But if the principle you adhere to is “once guilty, forever doomed,” then you’ve succeeded at giving in to the mode of the day, which is jumping to a conclusion and never jumping back because it’s just easier and more convenient to do so.
It’s up to him. But it’s also up to you.

Promotion and relegation would be a great idea in all sports


Promotion and relegation would be a great idea in all sports

There is no inherent reason why you should care about Miami FC or Kingston Stockade FC, two lower level professional soccer leagues in the lower right quadrant of the nation.

But when they joined together to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the international governing body for any sport not run by Americans for Americans, to demand that all American teams submit to the concept of promotion and relegation, from MLS to, presumably, your kid’s under-8 team, they became interesting.

And the best part about soccer, except for Neymar being worth twice as much as all other humans in the history of the sport, is promotion and relegation.

In fact, it would be a great idea in all sports – although the idea of the Giants and A’s in the Pacific Coast League might scare the bejeezus out of Larry Baer and John Fisher.

Now we are not optimistic that the CAS will see this Kingston and Miami’s way. Americans like their sports top-heavy, where only a few megaclubs get most of the money and attention while the rest sort of muddle along, safe but unremarkable. And to be frank, promotion and relegation is most a fun media construct for making fun of bad teams – say, like the A’s and Giants.

But we can agree, I think, that having Jed York pay Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch to keep his football team out of the Canadian Football League, or better still, the Mountain West Conference, would add to healthy dose of spice to what promises otherwise to be a pretty humdrum year.

And promotion/relegation would certainly reduce all that troublesome tanking in the NBA people endlessly whinge about.

So here’s to Kingston Stockade and Miami FC. Your cause is just. Persevere. After all, in this rancid period for American sporting culture, someone's got to stand for the quixotic yet indisputably correct thing.

And when it fails, and it probably will, just know you sleep with the angels -- if that’s what passes for fun at your house.