Black Ice Issue #36 — Darcy Rota Blues

Been thinking of Darcy Rota all night.

In the ’80s when Rota joined the Canucks he quickly made a splash playing on a line with Thomas Gradin and Stan Smyl. In the great campaign of 82 the trio combined for 204 points in the regular season and another 46 more in the playoffs capping off a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup final. Although the team fell short in the quest for the cup the ’82 playoffs cemented an obsession for hockey in this city that has yet to abate.

So why have I been thinking of Darcy Rota all night?

Over the weekend a friend and I spent the evening sorting a box of old hockey cards he had bought off eBay some time ago. As we were dividing up the absurd hockey hair of the ’70s from the sublime facial hair I came across a card of Darcy Rota. Born in Vancouver he spent just four-and-a-half seasons with the Canucks before retiring with a severe spinal injury. He was only 31.

I guess that struck me. For ten years Rota was a top-six journeyman and consistent point-a-game producer in the best hockey league in the world. For ten years lived breathed, and bled for a chance to lift Lord Stanley’s Chalice above his sweating brow, encircling the rink to a mechanized roar of a jubilant crowd. But all of this was not to be. For six weeks Rota, Gradin and the Steamer entranced a city, sparked a riotous obsession for hockey in the province and came within breaths of winning it all. But it was not to be.

The Canucks lost (as they are want to do) and Rota went on to play two more season before retiring. He had his best statistical year the season after ‘the run’ but hung up the skates soon after.

And that was it.

So remember Kesler, Burrow et al. You may only get one shot and then, like Darcy Rota, you spend the rest of your life wondering what if.