Alex Burrows and Adam McQuaid stare each other down in the Stanley Cup final. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
“You need people like me so you can point your finger and say ‘that’s the bad guy.’…Well say good night to the bad guy.”
- Tony Montana, philosopher
The villain has replaced the anti-hero as pop culture’s new favorite, from Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker to the only reality TV stars anyone cares about – the crazy ones. So Vancouver Canucks fans, say hello to the bad guys: your boys in blue and green.
Yes, the Canucks are a tremendously well-built team, handcrafted and honed by GM Mike Gillis to include finesse, grit, a deep defense corps, an Olympic-caliber goaltender and a backup who would start in many other NHL locales.
They’re also the villains of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.
This is not to say the Canucks deserve to lose to the Boston Bruins. It just needs to be stated that it will be no Hallmark movie-of-the-week ending should they raise the chalice in six or more games.
In the most straightforward sense, unless you’re already a fan, it’s hard to cheer for the team that won the Presidents’ Trophy to go all the way. We watch sports for the drama and the underdog meme exists because the unexpected is so much more exciting: Chaos and anarchy trump simple mathematical odds.
But in another, more visceral way, it just seems as if the Canucks have done a lot of line stepping en route to the Stanley Cup. If this were a sports movie, they’d be wearing the black jerseys and cheap-shoting their way to the final where a scrappy bunch of misfits would miraculously topple them.
Raffi Torres got the ball rolling in Round 1 with his savage hit on Chicago’s Brent Seabrook and the karmic whiplash nearly destroyed the Vancouver side, with “Chelsea Dagger” serving as the soundtrack as they descended several levels of choking hell before emerging out from the other side courtesy Alex Burrows’ Game 7 overtime heroics.
More recently, it was defenseman Aaron Rome’s two-Mississippis-too-late crushing of Nathan Horton that put Vancouver’s troops in the baddie category, ironically absolving the Big, Bad Bruins of many of their sins.
(As an aside, the B’s have matched the Canucks in selling high-sticks that never touched flesh and in nasty after-the-whistle behavior. But the optics of Boston losing playoff hero Horton, himself a great story thanks to years of futility spent in Florida, are not the same. This is compounded by the fact Marc Savard had previously been lost due to a nefarious head shot and Patrice Bergeron had his own concussion hell even before that.)
In Canada, much has been made as to whether folks outside of the Canucks’ sphere of influence should cheer for the Van City squad, simply because of geography and overall patriotism. Some in Vancouver have weighed in by saying ‘thanks, but no thanks – we know you actually hate us.’ (Which is ludicrous. Coming from the Greater Toronto Area, I am well aware which city other Canadians truly despise.)
But this may actually be the right attitude. I remember being at a party a few summers ago and striking up a conversation with a Canucks fan who was fuming about the Todd Bertuzzi suspension. He was adamant that Steve Moore had to pay for his previous hit on Markus Naslund and that had Moore “answered the bell” with Bertuzzi, the whole incident would not have happened. But, I countered, didn’t Moore answer the bell when Matt Cooke dropped the gloves with him earlier in that infamous game?
“Well, yeah,” said the Canucks fan. “But…”
But Moore won that fight with Cooke. The blood was not repaid.
I don’t fault the fan for backing up his team - we all have blind spots when it comes to the hometown squad. And the actual Vancouver Canucks absolutely deserve to win the Stanley Cup based on their skill and merit. But make no mistake, the Canucks are wearing the black hat in this showdown.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Fridays and The Hot List appears Tuesdays Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/THNRyanKennedy.