Bitter 2011 Cup final no big deal with Bruins, Canucks
The only thing more damaging to the pride than unrequited love may be unrequited hate.
So for those denizens of Vancouver and area with long enough memories, meaning fans and media and probably (though they will never admit it) even the dwindling number of Vancouver Canucks who played in the 2011 Stanley Cup final — it must be galling to consider the possibility that whatever hatred lingers is mostly one-sided.
If you say to a fan outside TD Garden in Boston, “How bitter is the Bruins’ rivalry with the Canucks?” the response is apt to be: “You mean the Canadiens?”
“No, the Canucks. Like, Vancouver.”
“Hahaha. Vancouver. We buried them. We’ve moved on.”
Of course, animus lives on in the endlessly-reloading Loathosphere of Twitter, where fans from the two cities still savage each other’s players and teams and well, each other. But however vile the exchange may seem to West Coasters, it’s all pretty tame compared to the malice traded by fans of the Bruins and Habs.
You want rivalry? That’s rivalry, deep-rooted and beechwood-aged and drenched in abomination.
Friday, when the Bruins made their once-a-year stop in Vancouver to begin a five-game road trip, a tour of the dressing rooms looking for remnants of the four-yearold pain was hampered by the fact that only one team feels any.
It’s not true that nobody ever remembers who finished second, because Vancouver definitely does. But with the Boston players you could almost see the wheels spinning in their heads as they puzzled out the reporters’ queries and decided: “Well, we have to give them something, so ...”
“It’s been quite a while now,” said the towering inferno, Zdeno Chara, who’s been trying to get the fire restarted since returning after 19 games with injury.
“It’s totally different. Both teams have changed personnel, they (Canucks) changed the whole management and coaching staff — both teams are more looking to getting on the right track and finding some consistency.”
It’s not as though no one is left from that mood-swingy series, in which the Canucks had the early momentum and then lost it through a string of untoward events, including: Alex Burrows’s famous bite of Patrice Bergeron’s finger, Milan Lucic’s fingerwagging invitation to Burrows to try it again, Dan Hamhuis’s injury, Aaron Rome’s suspension for the hellacious hit on Nathan Horton, Roberto Luongo’s illconsidered jokes about pumping Tim Thomas’s tires and, in the end, the Canucks’ lack of emotional response to Brad Marchand speed-bagging Daniel Sedin’s head. By then, for all intents and purposes, the series was over. The Canucks had capitulated.
It’s also not as though a Bruin or two hasn’t misbehaved in more recent meetings: Marchand’s suspension for submarining Sami Salo in 2011-12, Marchand celebrating a goal last season at Rogers Arena by mimicking lifting the Cup and kissing a championship ring, or Lucic getting in a bar fight after that same game, a 6-2 Canuck win, and later ripping Vancouver, his hometown.
But they’re both equal-opportunity offenders, who do not slime any particular team more than any other.
“Brad’s had those issues at different times, it’s not necessarily because it’s Vancouver,” Bruins coach Claude Julien acknowledged Friday morning.
As for Lucic: “It happened over a year ago, first time back since then, I’m not going to put too much emphasis on it,” he said. Since he got off the plane Thursday afternoon in the old hometown, he said, “Everything’s been great, no issues.”
“I think the hatred is gone,” said Jannik Hansen. “It’s two teams with a little bit of history, obviously, but ... all the sideshow, all the stuff that happened, it’s four years ago, you can’t really use it for anything. It’s great for the fans, great for the media, but there’s nothing that has to be paid back. The two points is the thing on the line.”
Burrows, a central figure in the early part of that Boston series, said that losing it still rankles, but as for the rivalry ? “Maybe between the cities, or the uniforms,” he said. “But we’re what, six, seven guys left from then? Same thing for them. It’s not like it was last year. A lot has changed.”
The biggest change is this: four years ago, the Canucks were winning the Presidents’ Trophy and the Bruins topping their division.
Today, both are precariously perched near the bottom of their conference playoff races, their 2011 moxie long gone, their fortunes on the slide, their hubris greatly chastened.
“If you look at the rivalries we had against Chicago and San Jose and L.A.,” said Henrik Sedin, “it happens when both teams are great. And right now, neither one of us is a top team in the league.”
And neither team, and neither fan base, feels very sorry for the other.
“No,” the Canucks captain said, smiling. “I don’t think so.”