“Well, son, there’s always next season.”
I spoke those comforting words to my sobbing child on June 15, 2011, as Vancouver’s downtown core burned. The idiot rioters, many from right here in Surrey, scored plenty of merchandise from looted stores that night, in the aftermath of the Canucks’ defeat to the bad-boy Boston Bruins. Ironically, the home team failed to score anything in that Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. At the buzzer, it was Bruins 4, Canucks zero.
The home team was shut out, as in nothing on the score board.
Once again, the Canucks had nothing to show for another fall-to-spring season of hockey — no Stanley Cup, no big shiny prize. It’d been the same story since 1970, the team’s first year in the NHL. They came close in 1994, too, but that season ended in similar Game 7 agony, a riot to match.
Next season, right?
Personally, I’ve been waiting for the Canucks to win a Stanley Cup since 1975. They were a decent team that season, and made the playoffs for the first time. Names like Don Lever, Andre Boudrias and Bobby Lalonde began circulating in my elementary-school playground. Who were these guys wearing blue-green jerseys, the ones with the odd stick-in-a-rink logo?
They were heroes on ice, that’s who — at least to newbie fans like me.
A few years later, the heroes of 1982 were different guys who had colourful nicknames like Tiger and Steamer and Strangler. In a franchise first, that scrappy bunch ended up in the Stanley Cup final against the mighty New York Islanders, who swept the Canucks four games to nothing.
There’s that word again.
Since their very promising, everything-but-the-Cup 2011 season ended in flames, the Canucks have crashed and burned to the point where the corpse is almost unrecognizable. As last season unfolded, they got torched almost nightly. The mighty Sedin twins still scored with some regularity, of course, but the team lost more than they won, earning nothing but mid-April tee times.
Yep, there’s that word again.
But with all that losing comes hope, in the form of draft picks and prospects. There are some fresh-faced new players wearing the breaching orca these days, guys like Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen, Sven Baertschi, Ben Hutton and Nikita Tryamkin. My son sobbed a little last May when the team traded one of his favourites, young gun Jared McCann, for a slightly more seasoned player, big D-man Erik Gudbranson. It’s OK, son, that might end up being a really good trade for us.
When the 2016-17 season starts, Canucks fans can only hope for the best. The team might be better this year, because they sure can’t get much worse. They’ll play Game 1 of their 82-game regular season against the Calgary Flames on Oct. 15 – nothing like a Saturday-nighter against an old rival to get things going.
For me, nothing (or not much, anyhow) will get in the way of tuning into a Canucks game over the coming six months, hopefully beyond mid-April and well into June.
If not, well, there’s always next season.
Tom Zillich is a staff writer and editor with the Now. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org