Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Stuck with the Canucks
Last year, as another mediocre hockey season ended for the Vancouver Canucks, my then-thirteen-year-old son Ashton and I were driving somewhere. The car was silent for a few seconds, and then, out of the blue...he spoke. It was with a tone of...not despair...just a kind of grimness.
"I think I'm going to start rooting for a new team".
"What?", I said.
"A new team. I just don't think I can take the Canucks anymore. Every year...it's so frustrating. I'm going to start rooting for the Flames".
A second passed. I breathed in. It was time to reveal cosmic law, no matter how disappointing it was.
"You can't", I said.
"What do you mean I can't?".
"You can't change", I said.
"Sure I can".
"Uh -- no you can't", I said. "We're from here. Manta (my dad) rooted for the Canucks, I rooted for the Canucks, you do, and your kids will...and...there's no way out. It's like trying to 'change your ancestry'. You can't".
Ashton snickered. "Funny".
"It's not funny - it's the law. Not my law - just the law. You can't change".
"The Flames are great, though. All I need to do to 'change' is to start rooting for them. It's-"
"You don't understand", I interrupted. "I don't mean you 'can't'. I mean you CAN'T. It's not possible. It's against THE LAW - the cosmic law of team affiliation".
I went on.
"I sympathize with you, I really do. I've been following the Canucks since I was five, when Manta used to take me to the games at the old Coliseum. They've never won a cup. They probably never will. Every year opens with such promise, but outside of two lucky runs to the final over the past four decades, they never get anywhere. I get that. But...all I'm saying is...there's no way out. We can't change".
Ashton fell silent. For a moment I thought he would burst into tears. But within seconds, it was as though he understood; we couldn't escape it. We were powerless to change it. It just was.
And sure enough, this year was another frustrating, stupid season for the Vancouver Canucks. I'm frustrated - frustrated with how delusional so many of the fans are, frustrated with how goalie Roberto Luongo left his pregnant wife 5000 miles away in Florida which ended up distracting him down the stretch (we went from one point out of first in our division to out of the playoffs in the last two weeks of the season), frustrated with Markus Naslund, frustrated with how Nonis and Vigneault didn't rip the captaincy off him last year, or Crawford the year before...and I honestly don't see any promising changes in the next few years.
To get anywhere, the Canucks would have to trade Roberto Luongo for a solid goalie and some offensive talent. And that will never happen. It won't happen because Dave Nonis, the Canucks GM, has a serious mancrush on Luongo, and Luongo (thanks to Nonis) also has a "no-trade" clause on his contract which he would have to agree to waive. It will never happen; and as a result, the Canucks will begin next season similarly unable to score, and it will be another struggle which will end either by missing the playoffs again, or being eliminated in the first round. They're turning into the west coast version of the consistently mediocre Toronto Maple Leafs.
There is always the possibility of a miracle, of course. That can happen. The Canucks of '93-94 got on a roll as the playoffs started, and even got to Game Seven of the Stanley Cup finals against the powerhouse New York Rangers (Canucks lost by one goal).
But miracles cannot be counted on...and certainly, this team doesn't seem particularly miracle-prone. The foreseeable future looks just like the last ten years: frustrating.
And there's no way out...those of us who have inherited "Canuckness" are stuck with them, forever.