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Canucks, Hockey

Bragging Rights: Why are we so smug anyway?

By aidanbc

 

Canucks vs. Canada


It will never be finally decided who has won the football. There’s still everything to play for, and forever to play it in!
-David Mitchell

I’ll admit I don’t quite follow how you, a man who lives over 200 miles away from the home ground of your chosen team can claim some deep attachment to a bunch of overpaid hired hands from all four corners of the globe who temporarily wear the same colour of shirt as you’re currently wearing. But then, maybe I’m a bit slow!
-David Mitchell

Despite our friend David Mitchell’s depressingly well-reasoned tirades on the futility and irrationality of sporting loyalties, fans of teams across the country take a real interest in the success of their own band of athletic mercenaries and seldom waste an opportunity to crow about their successes. Were we any different here at Smug Nation, we wouldn’t be… well, we wouldn’t be Smug Nation. But in a country that includes three of the top five all-time Stanley Cup-winning franchises, but hasn’t hosted a (planned-several-times-over) parade in 19 years, who exactly has bragging rights?

Boundless and bare

Of course, the Montréal Canadiens hold the ultimate trump card in this conversation with the 24 of Cups, but recently the league’s longtime king of kings has been reduced to two vast and trunkless legs of stone. Next in line are the Toronto Maple Leafs, a club that hasn’t won a championship since the NHL had fewer teams than today’s Canadian Football League. The Edmonton Oilers—the Richard Grieco of the NHL—are a long way from their glory days in the 80’s; lately, they’ve seen more lotteries than your local pub’s chain-smoking Keno junkie. So how do the Canucks fare in the conversation of Canadian NHL prowess? Better than you might expect for a 41-year-old Stanley Cup virgin.

Going into tonight’s matchup with the flaccid Calgary Flames, Vancouver is an impressive 105-54-15 against Canadian competition since the 2001-02 season. Even more impressive: they hold winning records against every single Canadian team in that stretch (that includes you, Winnipeg!). Most impressive: they actually have a winning record in every Canadian NHL building since the 2001-02 season, with the exception of the Bell Centre where they are merely 3-3-1. They have been the worst kind of guest, showing up sporadically at dinner time and, more often than not, leaving with 2 points while the hosts get what scraps they can.

Canucks vs CAD teams since 2001-02

Overall

Home

Road

Win

Loss

1pt

Win

Loss

1pt

Win

Loss

1pt

Calgary

36

20

7

17

14

4

21

10

3

Edmonton

36

21

6

18

9

4

18

12

2

Montreal

10

5

1

7

1

0

3

3

1

Toronto

11

5

1

6

4

0

5

1

1

Ottawa

11

3

0

6

1

0

5

2

0

Winnipeg

1

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

All of this might serve to explain why Canadian hockey fans weren’t keen by and large to jump on the Canucks’ bandwagon last post-season. If the school bully stole your milk money every week, would you cheer for him in the big district championship wrestling match? Vancouver’s recent victories in the Air Canada Centre—the stomping grounds of our “national” sports media—have been particularly demoralizing of late, whether by way of the former-revered-captain-shootout-winner or 2-goal-comeback-Happy-Birthday-Aidan tour de force.

Of course, sore loserdom doesn’t tell the whole story. As in all sporting loyalties, the decision of many to cheer against the Canucks is rooted in identity, and not merely in the apparently unpalatable identity of the 2010-11 Canucks team. For several reasons, the Canucks were deemed unworthy to carry the mantle of “Canada’s team.”

Part of this stems from the Canucks’ long history unencumbered by Stanley Cups. You’ll hear people say “the Canucks have never won anything,” despite having won nearly everything there is to win in their spotty existence, from individual awards and the President’s Trophy to conference championships to the divisional titles that seem to gather every spring like unwanted phonebooks. What these people mean is the Canucks haven’t won the only thing that really matters in this league, the only measuring stick by which a season, a team, a player is ultimately judged. These observers must view the Canucks’ success with something akin to the resentment of the ugly stepsisters watching Cinderella dance with the handsome prince. Canadians watch the Canucks win not with a sense of familial pride and redemption but with a sneering Bieberian “that should be me.” Of course, there’s also the unfortunate matter of the team disappearing just before the stroke of midnight…  Couple that with the muttered parochial skepticism about the Canadian-ness of this country’s temperate Pacific metropolis, and you begin to see the roots of the animosity.

Another regular season ends, maybe one crowned with silverware, maybe not. Who knows what will happen in this year’s playoffs? Who knows how the Canucks will fare in the opening rounds and in the elimination games, in the crease and in the slot, in the hearts of the nation or in the bluster of the airwaves. All I do know is what the Canucks have done for me lately: they’ve won 153 regular season games and counting over the last three years—more than any Canadian team, by far. More than any American team too. All this consistent 82-game excellence hasn’t added up to ecstasy of a championship, and so we’re told it’s all for nought. But three years of night-after-night wins—the comebacks, the laughers, the clinics, the squeakers, and the stolen games—153 of them, have left us thoroughly entertained, and more than a little bit smug.

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About aidanbc

Aidan has been a Canucks fan for (just) over 20 years. It was a 11-0 Vancouver victory over the trashy Calgary Flames on March 1, 1992 that made him realize this was the team for him. When not yelling at Henrik to shoot, Aidan can be found completing his graduate studies in Advanced Bureaucratic Red Tape and Pencil-Sharpening.

Discussion

4 thoughts on “Bragging Rights: Why are we so smug anyway?

  1. Nicely done Aidan. Maybe this year…

    Posted by Phil | April 6, 2012, 5:13 am
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    Posted by dedicated hosting | August 5, 2013, 9:59 am

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