[dropcap]B[/dropcap]eing a Vancouver Canucks fan comes with it a special type of pain. It’s very different from a Toronto Maple Leafs type of pain, one centred around a time always being terrible and never coming close. No, being a Canucks fan means dealing with the pain that comes with getting as close as humanly possible to winning, and then falling at the last hurdle. The Canucks are the only team in NHL history to get to two game sevens in the Stanley Cup finals without winning the Stanley Cup.
My first clear memory of the Canucks was the 2002 playoffs. I remember listening to the radio of the first game in Detroit, in the car during a school field trip to the local library. After the first two games, I was sure they were going to win the Cup. Of course, I was naïve. The Red Wings were absolutely stacked that year, and the Canucks had no chance. But try telling that to my eight-year-old self.
This set us up for the first Canucks disappointment. In game three of the series, the Canucks were tied one-one with just a couple of minutes left in the second period. Detroit player Nick Lidstrom, just trying to kill some time, shoots the puck from centre at the goaltender Dan Cloutier. The puck somehow manages to go in, and Detroit takes the lead at 2–1. They win the game, and promptly win the next three games to win the series at 4–2. After game six, I remember balling my eyes out. I was so sure the Canucks were going to win.
The words that have become familiar to every Canucks fan: “There’s always next year.”
If that was crushing, next year might have been even tougher. 2003 was the height of the ‘West Coast Express’ era, and this time, I was sure they were going to win it all. After winning the first round series against St. Louis, the Canucks were up against the Minnesota Wild, a team only in the league for a few years. After taking a 3–1 lead in the series, the team was only one win away from advancing to the Western Conference finals. The Canucks then proceeded to lose the next three games, including blowing a 2–0 lead in game seven at home. I was inconsolable afterwards, and I remember my dad trying to calm me down after with the words that have become familiar to every Canucks fan: “There’s always next year.”
After two years of crushing losses, you’d think I would be very cautious and not get my hopes up. Wrong. The 2004 playoffs pitted the Canucks against bitter rivals the Calgary Flames. This time the Canucks, without star-power forward Todd Bertuzzi after his suspension for his now infamous hit on Steve Moore, were in for a fight. The Canucks won the first game, and the teams traded wins from that point on. After Brendan Morrison scored in triple overtime in game six, the stage was set for an epic game seven.
It didn’t disappoint. With literally less than six seconds left in the game, Matt Cooke tied it up with the empty net to send it to overtime. I was on a high. The Canucks had all the momentum, and surely they would score and go on in the playoffs. Well, just a minute and a half into the overtime period, Martin Gelinas scored over an outstretched Alex Auld, and the dreams were crushed yet again. I also cried for a good hour or two. I’m not even going to get into 2011, because it still hurts a bit and it’s so fresh in my, and everyone’s mind.
These formative years were crucial in my development as a Canucks fan. I now distrust every move they make on and off the ice, and am pretty much an eternal pessimist when it comes to any team success. Hopefully they can win a Cup soon, so I can stop crying every time they’re eliminated.