Well before Kevin Bieksa’s surprising goal, Vancouver Canucks fans at Rogers Arena chanted “We want the Cup, We want the Cup!”
Craig Simpson of Hockey Night in Canada criticized fans for not backing their team while trailing 2-1. Clearly, he’s never attended a Penticton Vees game. OK, Canucks fans weren’t exactly lively for the entire game but they also weren’t completely silent observers.
Bieksa’s goal blew the roof off Rogers Arena and had its fans repeating their screams. The Province newspaper had a hilarious cartoon of Bieksa on its front sports page yesterday. It has a balding old man with glasses and a cane, holding his grandson’s hand and said, “Laser Beam. Top Shelf. Goalie never saw it.” Below it read, “Old man Bieksa.”
The Canucks will compete for Lord Stanley’s massive mug and it’s the organization’s third shot at it, the first in 17 years.
Seventeen years! Seventeen years ago I was Grade 11 at Stanley Humphries Secondary School telling my friends to keep believing. Even though the Canucks trailed the New York Rangers 3-1 in the series, they clawed their way back and nearly made Mark Messier and Co. sweat. It likely heightened as grinder Nathan Lafayette hit the post. He could have had 10 shots and hit the post nine times. After all these years, I still hate the Rangers for that. Even seeing footage of Messier hoisting the Cup brings disappointment for how close the Canucks came. Ever wonder where Lafayette is now? A published article on Canucks.com, spoke to the New Westminster native who is a Manhattan-based insurance executive since retiring from hockey in 2000. A quick side note, I don’t hold a grudge against Lafayette, but he’s likely not the guy I would have picked to be in that position. Of all his playoff seasons in the NHL, that was his best with two goals and nine points in 20 games.
While CBC and Sportsnet showed flashbacks from games in that 1994 final, the only thought that entered my mind is that I hope things turn out differently. It is interesting though that Bieksa’s goal that has put the Canucks into the Stanley Cup final fell on the same date that Greg Adams scored the overtime winner in ’94 to push the Canucks into the final.
This journey hasn’t been smooth sailing for the Canucks, who experienced a roller coaster of a series against Chicago. Seven games to knock the Blackhawks out, six to swat away the pesky Nashville Predators whose style lulls fans to sleep like a wrestler’s choke hold. The Canucks then pushed aside the San Jose Sharks in five games. It’s great that the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Boston Bruins to push that series to seven. Gives the Canucks more rest. With the Canucks shrinking the number of games needed to clinch a series, can they sweep their way to the Stanley Cup? I’m not even sure if I’d want to see that because in past finals that ended in sweeps it wasn’t entertaining to watch.
Here’s an interesting tidbit when it comes to how many people tuned into Tuesdays game. CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada reports that an average of 4.03 million viewers tuned in for Game 5. It was surpassed only by Game 7 of the Toronto Maple Leafs/Los Angeles Kings series in 1993, which attracted 4.24 million viewers. Tuesday’s game peaked at 10.7 million viewers.
Emanuel Sequeira is the sports editor for the Penticton Western News and has waited a long time for the Canucks to return to the Stanley Cup Finals.