A Canuck Nation Growing

As we draw near the end of the eastern road swing for the Vancouver Canucks, there is one constant occurance that has come to my attention. The fan support in the east has strengthened for our beloved team, and surprisingly really showing up strong in the arenas away from home. In fact, many comments throughout the league about the growing support for the Canucks in eastern cities. So what triggers the surge of support?

Montreal had to be the one town that wouldn’t sway their loyalties. The Bell Centre is a different beast from the other two arenas visited. Although I have noticed the pockets of Canucks fans seem bigger than those of previous visits. I have to say it is one arena where you know the undying love for the Habs will never be overshadowed of that of the visiting team. It was enough to propel les Canadiens to a shutout victory (2-0) over our Canucks.

In Ottawa, the pockets for Canucks supporters were evidently quite bigger than it has been in the past. I’d dare say the Canucks had about a third of the arena on their side. That’s a significant number of supporters in the nation’s capital. It was great to see a few westerners also make an eastern road swing trip to support the boys on Remembrance Day on their way to a 6-2 victory over the Senators. There was even a small bar meet-up (so I was told) after the game of Canucks fans. Unfortunately for me, being sick with the flu, I had to decline.



Toronto is Canuck Land? Photo taken by Justine Galo


Now the most surprising surge of support for the Canucks was in the “Centre of the Universe, also known as, Toronto. I used to live in Toronto, both downtown and on the east side, and I’ve run into very few ‘vocal’ Canucks fans in the 416 (or 905 for you suburban people). Usually, the only time I see those fans are when the Canucks visit the Air Canada Centre and even then, they are more reserved. This year, the support for the Canucks in Leaf territory, was, for me, surprisingly stronger than I could have imagined. The support for the Canucks was crazily visible in the stands. Not just pockets of supporters but rows of Canucks fans. More than it has been in the last four years since they started doing the home and home once a year again. Canucks fans were yelling, “Lu!!!!” at the ACC. It was so evident that it couldn’t even be masked on Hockey Night In Canada’s broadcast of the game. I remember just last January, when the Canucks visited the ACC, and the out-right support for the team wasn’t as vocal and in abundance. That was only 11 months ago! I’d dare say the Canucks had about 2000 fans on Saturday night, and that is a huge feat in Leaf Nation. I think only the Montreal Canadiens and the Canadian Sabres fans would be greater in numbers.

So the Canuck fan base is growing, but why? Could it be Luongo winning a gold medal for Canada at the Olympics, or the playmaking of the Sedins? Or could it be that they are a very good team, it makes the easterners realize they probably have the best chance of the Canadian teams to contend for the Stanley Cup. I’m not quite sure, and to be honest, I don’t really care, but it’s been nice to see Canuck Nation growing, especially in places it was once shunned.

On to Buffalo…


Justine Galo [tweetmeme]

Good to be lucky, lucky to be good

MayRay Smallby Jason Kurylo

When the Vancouver Canucks walk out of Air Canada Centre with two points, they are just doing what they should do: kicking a bad team when it’s down. The Toronto Maple Leafs started the year 4-0, but have foundered since. With the Canucks taking tonight’s game 5-3, the Leafs have now lost eight straight games, and have scored just six goals in their last four losses. Vancouver should win this game going away, and have now done so in five straight visits to the ACC.

A problem for Vancouver seems to be letting poor teams stick around in games long enough to make it close. The Canucks outshot the Leafs 26-16 through two periods, but took a tied game into both intermissions. The Leafs are 28th in the league in goals for, but managed three goals in the first two periods alone against Vancouver’s vaunted team defense/Roberto Luongo combination. Hell, the Leafs went up 2-0 in this game, and looked poised to rack up the score if not for the mighty Bobby Lou. Sure, Luongo looked soft on the first and third goals, but he was called upon to make several wonderful saves in close to keep the game close while the offense warmed up.

If it weren’t for a cheeky 80-foot slap shot from Mason Raymond that snuck through Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s pads, the Canucks might not have earned two points this night. Look at the photo for this blog post – the ad behind Mason Raymond says “CHEESE SNACKS”, which pretty much perfectly describes his winning goal. Watching Raymond wind up at the blue line, one thought, “Oh MayRay, you’ll never score from — oh, I guess you will.” This is the Leafs, after all. Giguere would have been ribbed by teammates for letting this unobstructed, undeflected waffler get by him in practice. Letting it in for a game winning goal, for the team’s eighth straight loss? He’ll be lucky if his mates talk to him at all.

If this sounds familiar, it’s with good reason. The Canucks let the Oilers climb back from a 3-0 deficit before Raffi Torres scored a lucky backhand GWG from the circles a few games ago. Just before Hallowe’en, Vancouver let Colorado outshoot them 31-13 over the final two periods, and squeaked out an overtime win they probably didn’t deserve. You may ask, “What’s the big deal?” You may say, “Good teams find ways to win.” And you’d be right – it’s a concern, however, when your Stanley Cup-contending team needs to grind out lucky wins over opponents who sit in 19th, 27th and 29th place in a 30-team league.

It’s hard to complain when your team is leading the Northwest, but the Canucks are in serious danger of thinking too much of themselves. The fact is, leading the Northwest is no mean feat. Colorado, Minnesota, Calgary and Edmonton all sit out of playoff contention at the moment, and probably still will come season’s end. Just as the Washington Capitals have blown away the Southeast Division for two years running only to be ousted in the playoffs by stiffer competition, the Canucks have played too many games against soft opponents, and more often than not have won those games in sloppy, skin-of-their-teeth fashion. No wonder the Blackhawks have won second round matchups against Vancouver – they have learned to play tough hockey with divisional games against Detroit, Phoenix and St Louis.

Ryan Kesler is the first to admit it. “We played sloppy hockey,” he told the Vancouver Sun, “but we got the two points and that’s all that matters.” Sadly, this team can’t afford to think that way any more. Not if they want to win a Cup. This team needs to harden themselves into a group of killers that won’t take barely beat the Leafs for an answer.


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Hollywood Homecoming

Mats Sundin couldn’t have had a Hollywood writer contrive a better story for his homecoming to Toronto for the first and possibly last time as an NHL player.  The build-up to the match up at hand were all surrounding the return of The Maple Leafs’ prodigal son.

ACC welcomes back former Captain.

ACC welcomes back former Captain.

Sundin was welcomed with some mixed reactions when he first stepped foot on the ice of the Air Canada Centre.  There was a lot of emotion and tension as Sundin skated prior to the game.  Fans and Sundin alike didn’t know how to react, didn’t know how each other was thinking.

Regardless of what was going through the heads of the patrons of the ACC, the players on the ice on both benches, the one predominant issue of the night was “The Prodigal Mats Returns”. For thirteen years, Mats Sundin toiled, succeeded, and endured in a Leafs uniform. For ten of those thirteen years, he was their captain.  The tension at the ACC was unbearable until they played the tribute video.

Teary-eyed as he took the faceoff, Mats felt the love of a city that once put all their hockey hopes and dreams on his shoulder.  He has come back, with another team, and although he was the enemy, both Mats and Toronto, embraced each other once again.

Last night, was an E-True Toronto Love Story.  In his own words, Mats Sundin said, “The ovation from the fans was very special. I’ll remember that the rest of my life.”

Even with all the hype that surrounded the return of Toronto’s once former favourite son, the game itself was entertaining to say the least.  The Canucks battled back to a shootout victory with no other than Mats Sundin scoring the shootout winner.

A perfect ending to a perfect homecoming for #13.

Just some musings from the mud.

LotusBlossom