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Black Ice Issue #40 — California Canucks

Now that the long awaited post-season is upon us I’m sitting around a pool in the Los Angeles with a few friends listening to the Giants game. In the spirit of the Black Ice blog, I continue to watch hockey in odd and inspiring places with odd and inspiring people.

Enter: Holly Russell, Australian bush girl, Michael Bublé’s personal assistant, ignorant as fuck about the game of hockey.

Enter: Michael Bublé, friend of hockey, co-owner of the Vancouver Giants. Lifetime FREAK of the Vancouver Canucks.

Enter: Craig Britain, sound tech extraordinaire, crib champion. Designated driver.

And myself, your humble correspondent and co-president of the Hollywood Hills Vancouver Giants fan club.

Tonight as the Giants battle a Game 7 in Vancouver, myself and this roving band of characters are sitting around with beer, herb and sushi, commiserating about the regular season behind us and where the Canucks are fated in the post-season.

As it stands the Giants are going into overtime with the game tied 0-0. Bublé, the owner, is crying over unspilled beer and trying to keep spirits high by battling Craig for cribbage domination. Holly, pouting in the corner after being routed by Craig is ordering takeout in her best Kylie Minogue impression.


While Dustin Tokarski (goaltending the Spokane Chiefs) holds the Giants at bay, Bublé and I discuss the schizophrenic season of the Vancouver Canucks. Between frustrated jabs into the empty air as Tokarski keeps the vaunted Giants offence at bay, Bublé and I breakdown a season that is over (regular) and a season that is about to begin (post). Unlike us casual fans of Junior Hockey (or super-casual fans such as myself) Michael Bublé actually has a vested interest in the Giants success. There are cracks in his devotion, however, as the conversation about the Canucks often overshadows the still tied hockey game.


From the ashes of last years slide-out-of-postseason arose some not so startling revelations. The Canucks badly needed secondary scoring and more team toughness, but even more, so they needed an identity. After almost twenty years of an organization guided by the ghost of Pat Quinn and gilded by upset after upset, the entire cultural paradigm of the team had to shift.


Bublé and I organized the following three highlights of the past year which seems to have addressed this glaring shortfall.


First is the passing of Luc Bourdon. The tragic death of this future stud blueliner shocked the Canucks and surrounding community. However, it also served as a rallying cry for a team (who up to this point) seemed content just letting a championship come to them. The entitlement in this city has reached an apex. They would have to work hard for it, and now there was a reason — do it for Luc. Obviously every hockey player dreams of hoisting the cup and doing the victory lap. But as I have been preaching all year, it was the culture of this team that forced them to lose, a culture that for all intents-and-purposes began the night they lost the Gilbert Perrault lottery.

The Canucks, it seems, have always had the deck stacked against them. Being a far out-post to the center of the universe, it stands that only a few escape the Nazarus-like curse put on this city. Will a savior, (or the subsequent death of a savior) unite us finally?


The second highlight (or low-light) was Roberto Luongo’s groin injury. Without a doubt the Canucks were on a tear in late November, eating up precious points in the standings while Luongo was putting up Luongoesque numbers in Luongoesque fashion. Going 8-3-2 on the month, the Canucks were starting to look like a team ready for a deep playoff push, missing only one small piece of the puzzle, in the form of a 6’5″ Scandinavian from Bromma, Sweden. All the talk in town had the ex-Leaf packing his bags and heading for the West Coast in time for Christmas.


Then came the moment of truth. And the truth, as it turned out, was far uglier then first imagined.


Common wisdom in the league is that the Canucks are a second-rate team without Luongo. In the spirit of populism it is difficult to argue this point, especially as the Canucks went on a 6-7-1 skid in December only to collapse entirely going 2-5-5 in January. The problem was not Luongo, the problem was systemic. The backup goaltender situation was not as bad as some teams (see: New York Islanders) but Curtis Sanford and rookie Cory Schieder looked cautious and unsure during their stints in net. Their tandem backup effort was not enough to bolster Vancouver’s lagging offense. The real low-point of the season was a 5-4 overtime lose to the Colorado Avalanche. Unspectacular at first glance, but upon closer examination of this game the real weaknesses in the Canuck’s organization begins to trickle in.


All of that was about to change. With what rookie GM Mike Gillis advertised as “bold moves”, which includes keeping incumbent head coach Alain Vigneault, the Canucks soldiered on through these dark moments of the 2008-09 campaign (and history as well) coming to a moment of reckoning. But this reckoning came from an very unexpected place. It came in the guise of a couple of third line grinders.


The third highlight of the season has to be the breakup of Ryan Kesler and Alexander Burrows. Not since the breakup of Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt has one divorce heralded so many children. Coach Vee was at the end of his rope, desperate times call for disparate measures. The Kesler/Burrows checking unit was the only consistence unit of operation in the Canucks during the dark days of January. Hoping to light a fire under the team, Coack Vee (the consumate line-juggler) moved Burrows to the top line with Hank and Danny. Next he teamed up under-performaning Demitra and Sundin with Kesler, a speedy center-turned-winger. The two new lines combined for over 90-points in the final two months leading the Canucks to a 23-7-2 record and their second division championship in three years.


At this point the Vancouver Giants have gone to sudden-death overtime. Bublé’s knuckles are white. Even as a casual fan, once you have commited yourself you have to follow through. So I sat with the golden boy from Burnaby as his team marched through 60 minutes of scoreless hockey. The Giants brought a firestorm down on Tokarski but every wave the G-men threw at him was promptly denied. It seemed inevitable that Tokarski was going to stop everything and the Giants were going to lose on a turn-over or a bad bounce. All seemed lost. Visions of consoling an inconsolable Bublé entered by head. How would I explain this to friends at home.

At that moment my phone buzzed and I got a message from my friend Trevor back in Vancouver: IM SITTING NEXT TO SCOTT OAKE.


His response was turse and direct: YOU WIN.

And so we did.

Bublé grabbed me into a bear hug (the type innate only to hockey fans) and preceded to expel all the air out my lungs in a hearty embrace. The Giants finally solved Dustin Tokarski. But this was just the opening act. In music we would call this the supporting band. The real show is next. The big time is upon us. The city is ready. Bublé and I will be home to Canada soon enough, and we’re bringing the Stanley Cup with us.


Black Ice Issue #38 — Coaches Corner

Went to the Canucks game last night. It was bad ass. Had the most miserable week at work last week and it felt so fantastic just to let out guttural moans and buoyant cheers for the home team. Just what the doctor ordered. What strikes me about organized sports is how it is just a stones throw away from war. I mean, what do I really have against the City of Calgary? I have been there once in my life. I have nothing against the Calgary. But that does not stop me from hating them. And how is Vancouver so much better. This I cannot say. Truthfully I hate this city most of the time. It offers me nothing, I offer it nothing. It is a symbiotic relationship based on petulance. A coalition of the less-then-willing. But our alliance is merely contingent on our proximity to each other. But the enemy of my enemy is my friend no?

So we take this substitution for war, gilded on an arbitrary rivalry based on a geography and slap a price tag on it. Fuck you Vancouver. Go Canucks go.

The lyrics for the Propagandhi song ‘Dear Coaches Corner’ seem especially pertinent as I float through the miasma of this life. Searching for meaning in the vein pursuit of breath and life and divisional dominance.

Dear Ron McLane. Dear Coach’s Corner.
I’m writing in order for someone to explain
to my niece the distinction between
these mandatory pre-game group rites of submission
and the rallies at Nuremberg.
Specifically the function the ritual serves
in conjunction with what everybody knows is,
in the end, a kid’s game.
I’m just appealing to your sense of fair play
when I say she’s puzzled by this incessant pressure
for her to not defy collective will and yellow ribboned lapels,
as the soldiers inexplicably repel down from the arena rafters.
Which, if it not so insane,
they’ll be grounds for screaming laughter.

Dear Ron McLane, I wouldn’t bother with these questions
if I didn’t sense some spiritual connection.
We may not be the same, but it’s not like we’re from different planets.
We both love this game so much we can hardly fucking stand it.
Alberta-born, and Prairie-raised.
It seems like there ain’t a sheet of ice north of Fargo I ain’t played.
From Penhold to the Gatinaeu, every fond memory of childhood
that I know is somehow connected to the culture of this game.
I just can’t let it go.

I guess it comes down to what kind of world you want to live in.
And if diversity is disagreement, disagreement is treason.
Well, you’ll be surprised if we find ourselves
reaping a strange and bitter fruit that that sad old man beside you
keeps feeding to young minds as virtue.
It takes a village to raise a child, but just a flag to raze the children
till they’re nothing more than ballasts for fulfilling
a madman’s dream of a paradise. Complexity reduced to black and white.
How do I protect her from this cult of death?

have a listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAIUf_SYpwE


Black Ice Issue #37 — Game Eighty

John Keats once famously wrote, “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Witnessing Luongo’s 46-save performance has brought Keats’ immortal words to life on the streets of Vancouver.

Roberto Luongo was traded to Vancouver from Florida for Todd Bertuzzi just under three years ago. The architect of this trade, Mike Keenan, now helms the bench for the Calgary Flames and the compensation for that trade, Bertuzzi, now plays for Keenan.

Historically Keenan has had a man-crush on Todd Bertuzzi and a sadistic temperment for goaltenders. Evidence for this lies in his dealings with Luongo while in Florida. It’s also interesting to note that he has traded for Bertuzzi before, in 1997, when Bert was with the New York Islanders. Back then the struggling prospect caught the eye of Keenan who was with Vancouver at the time.

And Goaltenders? Miikka Kiprusoff is first in the NHL with 45 wins but 31st in goals-against. What can be made of this canundrum?

One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure. Or one man’s garbage is another man’s garbage. Or Mike Keenan is a big fuckin idiot. Whatever, where were we? Ah yes, beauty.

Roberto Luongo is the show in this town. True, his fingers are a little bit light from their conspicuous lack of Stanley Cup ring. But the weight of this cities hopes remain a steadfast reminder to the star keeper that we are now 38 years and counting. And waiting. Waiting for that thing of beauty to enshroud our green oasis here in the Pacific Northwest.


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.


Black Ice Issue #35 — Triple Boredom With Fries

I left the game in the middle of the third period for band practice. Had a feeling the Canucks would pull through. You know that feeling? The one that suggests your team is going to win by virtue of their glistening record. Little did I know that the boredom so often beset upon a tilt with the Minnesota Wild would decend into full fledged Chinese water torture.

True, the Canucks were coming off a six game road trip having already snatched 6 of 10 point on the road. They hit the ice in the Twin City with stiff bodies and swirling minds (visions of a first round match-up with the Blackhawks dancing in their heads). But thankfully one particular Canuck made a point to bring his A (plus plus) game to the city of F. Scott Fitzgerald and that man was Captain and current king of the crease, Roberto Luongo.

Louie was flawless, apart from letting a Marian Gaborik deflection flutter over his sprawling frame, and his rebound control (according to people who know about these things) was fantastic. Gone are the easy goal he was badly criticized for in the press two weeks ago. Back is the swagger that saw the Montreal native finish second twice for the Vezina and has the pundits calling once again upon the General Managers (who vote on the best goalie trophy) to take a look at our prodigal son.

This was the type of win we were used to seeing when Luongo first came to town two seasons ago and the expectation for this team was very low. In those days the Canucks would squeeze a goal or two out of their anemic offence and then lean on Luongo to be superhuman night after night. Yesterday’s night was no different, except the team performance was a statistical anomally. Right now the Canucks finally have a legitimate top six forward combination (something they’ve missed all the way back to the Bertuzzi/Naslund era). Mix that with Luongo steady ascent to the top of the goaltender ranks and the solid play from the defence corp and you have a deadly combination.

There are no glaring weaknesses with this team. Unless you count apathy, but that could have just been confused with fatigue on Tuesday night. Expect to see no more of this in the 2008/09 season, unless the Canucks prefer to loose a chance at the championship.


Black Ice Issue #34 — Hair Raising Tilt

I do not have a problem with hair pulling. It is just part of the game. Some might ask, is it necessary to punctuate the flow of the contest. I say, maybe maybe not.

Reality in the heat of battle can often be blurred as attempts to overcome reaches desperate proportions. Case in point Sunday evening in Chicago when Alexander Burrows dragged Brent Seabrook to the ice by his flowing biff and continued to tug on his mane as they tussled horizontal on the ice. All of this the result of an punch to the mask of Luongo by Dustin Byfuglien after an unsuccessful rush by the Hawks. Concurrent to the melee was Shane O’Brien going batshit crazy after seeing the Luongo incident on the Jumbotron. The hotheaded Irish kid proceeds to make bongo drums out of any Hawk available on the ice. And Kevin Bieksa jumped into the fray with ….. a happened to lose not only half his equipment but also about half a pint of blood on the surface of Chicago Stadium.

The entire incident had a comic appeal and resulted in over 80 penalty minutes being issued by official. And begs the often asked question: is fighting necessary and how should it be regulated?

Apart from being the statement game of the season for the Canucks and a possible preview of a first round match up, the game was a case study in how physicality is such a benchmark of the game. With players able police their actions on the ice (while officials police the police action) it forces players to remain accountable to their actions on the ice. Dustin Byfuglien intentionally smack Luongo in the mask, so he must answer the bell.

A physical team is not necessary to win a championship (see Detroit 2008) but it certainly helps (see Anaheim 2007). A hearty mixture is probably your best option when entering the playoffs and both the Canucks and Blackhawks seem to have both in spades, toughness and a host of talented players.

The Sedins/Burrows combined for a eye popping nine points on route to a 4-0 lopsided victory on enemy ice. What was most telling of their performance was all three of their goals were scored even strength. Now with the clubs power-play sneaking up the ranks to a reasonable 18.3% and their penalty-kill at a respectable 80.7% their special teams are starting to perform at a clutch capacity suitable for playoff hockey. Combine that with the gritty production of Ryan Kesler and rigid goaltending of the Roberto Luongo and you have a dangerous combination of skill and resolve to enter the post-season.

If the Canucks have to gauge out eyeballs and yank out tufts of hair to win the Stanley Cup, that is fine with me.

Black Ice Issue #30 — Captain Canuck

“…[T]here is going to be that seventh game; we’ll hope they can patch Linden up and get him in that one. He will play — you know he’ll play; he’d play on crutches! He will play, and he’ll play at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night! The game is over!”

–Jim Robson, after Trevor Linden got hit my Mark Messier while crawling to the bench at the end of Game 6

It was the finest performance by the finest Canuck to ever don the “C” (not to mention every single Canucks crest and color) in the history of hockey in the City of Vancouver.
And I once made him soup and I once had a crush on his wife, although I didn’t know it at the time. I used to work at a restaurant in Yaletown as a line cook. It was located right beside the store Linden’s wife ran at the time. A clothing boutique called Basquiat. The other cooks and myself would often stand outside ofBasquiat smoking cigarettes on break and generally talking shit about whatever topic available. I made a comment about Linden’s wife (which I did not know at the time) which Toot’s, our Sois Chef, has never let me live down. It was something along the lines of, “damn she’s hot,” and it may or may not have been made within earshot. Everyone laughed, flicked their cigarettes, and walked back toward the kitchen. Later on, Jordan the Chef, told me that the girl I had a crush on was none other then Christine Linden, Trevor’s wife, and that the couple was — in fact — in the restaurant at that very moment.
Starfucking has always been a funny thing for me. People go ape-shit over celebrities all the time but it’s never been my bag. It’s an interesting phenomenon to watch, as people loss all sense of composure and personal class at the presence of another human being — who happens to be famous. Which isn’t to say I’m not immune to the surreal force of celebrities (I’m particularly vulnerable to local celebrities, see — Tamera Tagert), but, when the Linden’s order came in, I caved, I insisted on making the soup. Why? I’ll never know. Perhaps so that one day, when I’m writing a hockey blog on the day-in-day-out ramblings of an obsessive Canucks fan I could mention with pride and bravado that I made Trevor Linden soup.
That’s right, I made Trevor Linden soup!
And now here we are on the cusp of another dynasty — you will be happy to note the small ‘d’ used in the spelling of dynasty. This week, with the raising of #16 to the rafters at the Garage and the signing of Mats Sundin, has be one of the most exciting weeks in Canucks history (to quote Don Taylor). And the winds of change are raging in full force.
But what, here in Vancouverdom, will this squad offer in the realm of real change and real hope apart from a full roster about-face? What, besides an inventory permutation, will this new face of the Canucks signal?
Most pundits argue the Canucks will now place a distant third in the conference and wonder if Sundin (and a healthy Luongo) are strong enough to topple through the battery of San Jose and Detroit. And let’s not forget Chicago. Vancouver’s surging power-play picked an awful time do go flaccid on Saturday night against the young gunning ‘Hawks. Kane and Toews feasted on Canuck mistakes, despite being outplayed by Vancouver. Was that just a market aberration, or will our winning percentage correct itself the next time out? Vancouver has notoriously stepped up their game against a smaller Detroit team; they are also notorious for losing to San Jose, generously handing all four meetings last year to the Sharks. Going into HP Pavilion tonight, where the Sharks are a whopping 17-0-2, is going to be the real litmus test.
Let’s face it, the Canucks cannot get swept in any season series this year by Western Conference opponents. Every year we do, we miss the playoffs by inches. Remember 2006 when Curtis Sanford and the Blues swept the season series and we missed the playoffs by three points? And last year versus San Jose, same thing. Ostensibly Vancouver needs to go .500 against San Jose to have a reasonable shot in the playoffs. Sundin aside, if they can pull a measure of confidence together when it comes to the Sharks then the Canucks will have no problem making to the playoffs.
Because let’s face it, at this point nobody should be drafting a Stanley Cup parade route on GoogleMaps yet. With this notoriously fickle squad (see — 1996 and the arrival of Alex Mogilny or 1997 and the arrival of Mark Messier) the arrival of a proven player does not necessarily herald a championship ring. What the Canucks need first and foremost is a leader. A Captain of Captains, to lead this team to the promise land on his shoulders. There has been cohesion in this group at times this season, but a lack of the force necessary to carry a team is still missing. Steve Yzermen in 2002 won the cup for the Detroit Red Wings on one leg, literally. After the 2002 Olympics, Yzermen underwent an MRI which revealed he had virtually no cartiledge left in his right knee. Knowing that surgury would likely finish him for the season, Yzermen soldiered on in one his best post-season performances to date, potting 6 goals and 17 helpers to lead the team with 23 points to a third cup in six years.
It was a legendary performance. Something each Canuck and potential leader can stand to learn from.
Luongo has been out nearly a month and there has been little in the way of consistent leadership for the Canucks in his absence. Certain players have answered the call for periods, but then the aperture widens and the absence of leadership once again opens. Daniel Sedin has put his head down and gone to work, netting 12 goals in his last 17 games. There is much to his game that has improved over the years including killing penalties and going to the net to score the dirty — crashing the goaltender — type goals. There is no doubt Daniel (and Henrik) have a desire to win, they simply lack that je ne sais qois that past captains have immortalized. Ryan Kesler is the most improved of all Canucks, and his crash-and-bang style of play, with heart to boot, is exactly the type of play invented for playoff hockey. If we get to the playoffs, look for Kesler to step-up, but will this be enough enough to thwart the enemy?


Trevor Linden captained the Canucks to within a goal-post of the Stanley Cup. He wore his heart (and play) on his sleeve and desire to give (both to his team and to the fans) was congenital, inveterate and authentic. In a era where the payoff is measure by dollar amounts, it is the incalculable effort of leaders such as Linden and Yzermen and so many others in the history of the game which has propelled pretenders into contenders and contenders into winners. There is a small margin in this day-and-age and this “new” NHL, between these three characteristics and it is only a true captain that is able to close the gap.
Will Mats Sundin provide the needed adhesive for this unit that possesses promise, but is not necessarily promising? Will Roberto Luongo, upon his return, launch his career (and his team) into the contenders columns and, come playoff time, lead the the procession, Cup in hand? Win or lose, this team needs an identity that is sadly missing to date. Perhaps with the addition of these two all-stars the team that will the gains necessary to win. The gains are identity, consistency and leadership, three traits that Detroit is still commanding even after the departure of Yzermen. Traits that San Jose has spent the past three year learning, albeit byzantine in its approach, which has brought the team closer and looking more and more legitimate everyday. Traits that have Chicago on the fast-track to reshaping a crumbling hockey empire, with youngsters such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews taking the reigns earlier then expected, they are making a strong argument this campaign for NHL domination.
But winning in Vancouver will only come when a true captain comes forward. Someone who can own this town once again.
Someone who I can make soup for.


Black Ice Issue #26 — Millimeters Away From Win In Mile High

The first period was all Canucks. They out shot, out drew and out played the Aves by a wide margin. Darcy Hordichuk opened the scoring early, chipping a pass from Jason Jaffery over the left shoulder of Peter Budaj. Most of the play happened in Colorado’s zone. The third-line grinders continue their scoring woes, Kesler having one point in ten games. After a short handed two-on-one opportunity that left Burrows passing late and Kesler not getting much of a shot off, you could tell that the confidence level in the pair is at a season-high low. The Raymond, Wellwood, Pyatt line looked solid with the most scoring chances of the period. The PHD line held the zone well, but there was little to write home about in terms of chances. Schnieder was great when it mattered, challenging the shooter and keeping rebounds to the outside. Even a disallowed goal, knocked in off Ryan Smyth’s glove, didn’t rattle the cool-as-a-cucumber rookie tender.

The second period started out slowly. The rhythm of the game was prosaic, with each side bumbling up and down the ice giving-up little but giving even less. The Aves jumped on the board first when, North Van native, David Jones made a rush up ice and Willie Mitchell knocked the rebound into his own net. A few minutes later Ryan Smyth, making up for his disallowed goal in the first, wired a shot from the point through the pads of Schnieder to to make it 2-1. The boring and frustrating second period got interesting after a vicious boarding incident occurred. Ian Mcleod drove Kevin Bieka’s head into the boards (a suspendable play if you ask me) and all the Canucks on the ice jumped Mcleod. Unbelievably, after the penalties were handed out for the post-whistle scrum, both teams remained five-on-five. This seemed to spark the Vancouver players however, still reeling from the Bieksa hit. First, Daniel Sedin takes three whacks at a loose puck (after Kesler missed two whacks a minute earlier) and evens things up for the Nucks. This was a full team effort after Darcy Hordichuk tried to spark his team with a fight, taking on Cody Macorkmack in a quick bout. It was hard work that paid off, it’s nice seeing Daniel score these gritty goals, we’ve seen more and more of them lately. And the Canucks didn’t quit, with Ryan Smyth in the box for a light-holding call (perhaps a gift from the refs for the Bieksa hit) Steve Bernier put his team ahead slapping a nice rebound from Mason Raymond past Peter Budaj. The last few minutes of the period was exciting end-to-end hockey that looked nothing like the beginning of the period.

The third period needed to be the make or break stanza for the Canucks, but there wasn’t enough goalkeeping to keep the lead entrenched. Milan Hejduk tied the game 3 minutes into the third when he threw the puck on net and it went in off Shane O’Briens stick. The second goal-against off a Canucks D-man of the night. Regardless, Vancouver swung back when Steve Bernier potted his second of the night, snapping a sweet feed, courtesy of Burrows from the slot. He didn’t even look at the vulcanized rubber, he just shot a seeing-eye-puck past Budaj with what should have been the winner. It was sadly not the case. Clear evidence that Cory Schnieder is not quite ready for a full-time NHL job, he let in a weak shot from Daniel Tjarnqvist through the 14-hole under his right arm. Demitra could have cleared the puck to maintain the lead with three minutes left, but he failed this task, leaving a clear lane for Tjarnqvist open. It was a simple case of — where the fuck is Luongo tonight? So off we go to overtime which solved nothing and then a shootout where Colorado scored on every shot. Yes, every shot.

In terms of Cory Schnieder, it was a blow to the young net-minders short shift in the NHL. When Blue gets back, the rookie will obviously continue his development in Manitoba. He showed poise early on (particular the win Friday in Minnesota) but manifest his clear need for confidence, something that is gained only from experience. What the Canucks need more than letting a rookie goalie have a crack at the majors is a wins. One point is not good enough. On a road game that continues in its malignancy, it was up to the veterans of the team to come up with a bit more effort. Sadly it’s Steve Bernier who was the best Canucks on the ice, right behind him was Alexander Edler. To win, you need to play 60 minutes of hockey. The Canucks played 57 and it cost them the game. While the young guns put in a worthy effort, blame lay in the poor play of the leaders in the last 3 minutes. This made all the difference.

Next Up — Nashville

Black Ice Issue #29 — Canucks Mauls Panthers In 2nd Period For Victory

This was a nice little win for the home team. While they started off slow and flat-footed — with Florida scoring two soft goals early — the Canucks found their wheels in the 2nd frames, scoring 5 unanswered goals for the win.

The game started badly, with Corey Schneider looking very shaky and handling the puck with minimal confidence. Every time the Panthers had a shot in the 1st period it qualified as a legitimate scoring chance as the rookie tender struggled to find his game. However, he came through on a key save off a Shawn Matthias breakaway, that could have bumped Florida up 3-1, instead the Canucks used it as a turning point to scale a full offensive  assault.

Darcy Hordichuk put the Canucks on the board with a laser from the point. The tough-guy from Kamsack, Saskatchewan continues to excel on the fourth line with his 3rd of the season. Key goals like this, from roll-players, really adds a spark to a team gaining momentum. This was no different, turning a difficult Vancouver start into a paradigm shift for the whole squad.

With Pavol Demitra chipping in two goals (one on the PP) and Kyle Wellwood continuing his PP success with a marker, the special teams looked fierce. When Ryan Kesler cut hard to the net on a short-handed breakaway and crashed goalie Craig Anderson, the gritty forward sealed the fate of the surging Panthers.

It was a very fun game to watch. Lots of actions, good hits and end-to-end rushes. While at times each team did not play well in front of their respective goalies, the home team struck with the iron hot and it paid off for the home crowd.

If you are watching Mats, just think what Vancouver will look like with you and Louie sharing the same ice. Scary.

Next Up — Edmonton

Black Ice Issue #28 — Oil Blank-it

This had to have been the worst game of the season for our beloved Canvouver hockey squad. There were bodies on the ice, but there was no soul. If the boys in blue, green and white where thinking of making a selling point for Mats Sundin, should he decide to take the money (and the travel) and head west, they failed with heart augmented by zero goals.

Now as a long time follower of the Canucks, I have to say it hurts slightly more losing to Edmonton then losing to Calgary, but Jesus if tonight did not feel like a kick in groin with a frozen Bauer blade. Every single one of Sanford’s failures (3 to be exact) was the failure of the entire team. The was no speed, no skill and no upside (Coach Vee’s favorite word when assessing talent). Sure this loss came at the tail end of a long, stupid road trip that saw Canucks playing 7 games straight on the road.

It was one of those typical (or is that stereotypical?) Vancouvers losses. The type of loss that makes you want to hurl your beer can at the television screen and scream invective at the fading signal until the police arrive and they commit you to the pysche ward at St. Paul’s. For six days they have you on suicide watch, heavily medicated to the point of sedation, you slur various forms of scatological rambling at the nurses that come and go, but in the end they release you just days before Christmas.

Some fucking Christmas. Now you have all the time in the world (since you have now been fired from your job) to spend obsessing over Vancouver’s favorite cock tease — our local professional hockey franchise.

Send me back to St. Paul’s. Maybe I’ll have more time to spend reading The Russians and suffering over my various metaphysical barriers that can no longer be channelled through the insipid brutality of grown men on skates, beating the shit out of each other for the right to smack a tiny vulcanized-rubber disc into a 6×4 net. Yes, I find many of life’s lessons in the pursuit of the game of hockey, vis-à-vis the Vancouver Canucks, and someitmes I think it will drive me insane. What came first? They might ask. Was it the insanity or the game? Maybe hockey is merely a trigger for a pre-existing condition. Well I can say this, hockey may be the single greatest joy and the single greatest disappointment in my life.

Perhaps my life needs a drastic overhall. Perhaps, so too do the Canucks. And medication for the pain?

Hint: rythmes with Fats Mundin.

Next Up — Florida


Black Ice Issue #27 — Griffith Way Gladiators

Did Alex Burrows leave his feet? Was that a hit from behind by Ryan Kesler? Will Rob Davison’s hit be featured on Don Cherry’s next Rock ’em, Sock ’em release? The answer to all three questions is a resounding Yes. Is this affirmation the impetus for Tuesday nights 3-1 victory over Nashville? Affirmative.

Is Mats Sundin ever going to make up his mind?
Jesus I don’t know. But if ever there was an argument for grit + determination = wins, this game was a candidate for logical propositions 101. If Sundin is a fan of winning with the Canadian game (with a detour through 70’s era Philadelphia) the Canadian way, then the Vancouver squad that showed up against the Predators is the best candidate for the hulking Swede.
The fact that there were some questionable hits, to this degree, is moot. The league will not look into it any further and the Preds will have to seek vindication during their next meeting (which happens January 1st, well after Sundin makes his decision). What was important, and I have been railing on this all season, was the team game. Kesler and Burrows are not dirty players, but they play the game on the edge and it’s inevitable that a foot is gonna slip every once and a while. The footage speaks for itself. The points, if there is one besides the 35 that now situates itself under the PTS column in the standings, is the stronger, grittier paradigm originally envisioned by Gilles seems to have found it’s stride. This makes a potentially boring road game, versus a non-divisional team, very exciting to watch and two points well deserved. This makes Canucks fans very happy. It also makes Vancouver appear to the be front-runner — if you include cap-space issues — in the Sundin Sweepstakes.
Okay, is that too much credit too soon. Deserved? The Canucks power-play could use an official name change — leading candidate would have to be: flaccid-play — due to seven uninterrupted minutes of man-advantage time squandered. If Alex Edler had not finally chomped at the bit in the third, with a PP marker to put the Nucks up one, the game would have/could have been lost. So again, the Canucks escape unscathed with a paltry attempt at special teams (special teams, more like special “olympic” teams). I digress.
The purpose of the Mats Sundin signing is to turn a pretender into a contender. Let’s face it folks, what we got ain’t enough. But if I’m a scrawny loser, then how do I seduce the buxom 36-24-36 into my bed? Show her my record collection? Convince her my GPA is high enough for Law School considerations? Is this a love or money question? Or a love of money question? Does Sundin want a team with loads of upside (Coach Vee’s favorite word), but still needs a babe on his arm to walk into the dance with? Or is he a superficial bitch looking to lift the silver chalice of Lord Stanley, forsaking mammon to get there?
At this point, the Canucks have a great record collection and they are smart enough for Law School consideration, all they need is a little direction and acquisition of that elusive trait known as identity. Will this come from a woman or will it come from within?
Next Up — Edmonton

Black Ice Issue #24 — Four Game Losing Streak

The last week has been hectic as all hell for me. Just as I said at the beginning of the season that I would write a column for every game this season, I also may have mentioned that I do it on my spare time — ergo — no spare time, no article. I will try and make a better effort at blogging from this day forth, but honestly, some days being a Canucks fan can be extraordinarily taxing. It’s sort of like being diagnosed with a (enter life-threatening medical condition here). This is not an excuse, merely an explanation.

Next Up — Minnesota