The day after the senseless riots, I walk the streets of downtown Vancouver. I see touching scenes where people volunteer to clean up the streets, scrub the burnt walls, and offer words of encouragement to the 'real fans of Vancouver' as well as the Vancouver Canucks. It is in this spirit that I feel there are more reasons to celebrate, rather than to criticize. I offer 7 reasons why we in the city of Vancouver ought to be proud of this year's home team.
1) President's Cup Winners
For the first time in its 40 years franchise history, the Canucks won the title of being the best team in the NHL in the regular season. Just look at the table to see how the Canucks distinguished themselves this year. In fact, they are the first team to be guaranteed a place in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
2) The Way They Performed
Going into the playoffs, the Canucks had the best power play, scored the most goals, allowed the least goals, and have consistently performed better than any team in the league. They are no fluke. Looking at the classy way in which they have played the game, they made the game of hockey such a beautiful sport. I remember how the Sedins pass the puck so gracefully that it looks like figure skating with a hockey stick.
3) The Team Talent
The Canucks distinguish themselves as a cohesive team. Without laying blame on any one individual, they have consistently adopted a posture of rising and falling as a team. This is clear from many of the interviews individual players have given. All of them have an extremely high regard for one another. In fact, each player passes so well, sometimes too much, demonstrating that it does not matter who scores, as long as the team wins.
4) The Captain
The captain, Henrik Sedin is a class gentleman. He does not assign blame even after the team lost the final game. Instead, he takes responsibility and leadership. In one memorable game, he intentionally protects the puck that is heading toward the opposition goal. Instead of slamming it home to rack up credit for himself, he allows the puck to go in so that his teammate, Aaron Rome, gets his first goal in the league. Classy.
5) A Great Stanley Cup Run
The Canucks went all the way to the very last game. Together with the Bruins, they played the most number of games. They struggled with injuries. They played like true warriors in the sport. Many of the players battle with injuries. Come on. Hockey is a very punishing sport. After playing 82 games, to try to win another 16 high intensity games is already an exceptionally difficult task. That is why many has said that the Stanley Cup is the world's most difficult prize to win. With this long Stanley Cup run, the Canucks have given the city of Vancouver, and the entire BC province as well as Canada, a real hope. It does not matter about the final result. What matter is that they have provided for us great sportsmanship and entertainment. It was after all, a great Stanley Cup run.
Dr John Stackhouse of Regent College gives a very insightful reflection on the team. He writes the following which sums up the quality and sportsmanlike of the team.
"Sportswriters and TV analysts scratched their tiny heads at how the pride of the Canucks’ league-leading offense, the Swedish twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin, seemed to disappear for much of the playoffs and particularly the finals. (They actually were one-two in leading the Canucks in points, but given their usual prowess, they did seem to disappear for long stretches.) But there is no mystery here, even while the Sedins themselves were too sportsmanlike to state the obvious, blaming themselves instead. No, the brute fact is that their opponents were granted permission by the referees to vandalize their brilliant game of flashing skates, creative positioning, and pinpoint passing.Worse, their opponents were given permission to hack at the backs of their lower legs and punch them in the face, to attack the few places on the body unprotected by hockey pads, thus crippling and distracting two of the quickest players in the league." (blog)Looking at it, I tend to agree. It makes me feel like, if one has to beat up the other team physically in order to win the Cup, then that Cup is not really worth winning at all. Most commentators have already said that if the Canucks were to battle with the Bruins in the trenches, the Bruins win hands down, by virtue of their huge sizes and brute intensity. If one wants to win, let it be done gracefully. I believe that the winner is not the one lifting the cup. The winner is anyone who has given their best, being graceful in every win, and being gracious in every loss.
So what the Canucks did not win. Why should anyone of us let one final game condemn a great team? Look at the team. They played the entire series all the way. They won the President's Trophy, the Western Conference, and is a Stanley Cup finalist. At each step, they have offered the entire city and supporters much hope. Look at how the people rejoice and party through the night this year. It is something not commonly seen. This final reason is perhaps the best I can think of. It is possible. There is no shame in losing the last game. Likewise, fans have every reason to be proud of their Canucks. Let there be no blame. Let there be no shame. Keep your chin up. Stand tall. There is hope. With the experience gained, there is more for the team to gain.
Do not let one final game, even though they lost, blind us from the fact that the team this year has done well. Exceptionally well. True fans will learn to win gracefully or lose graciously.
Go Canucks Go!