Two years later, this remains one of my favourite photos in Canucks history.
With the star power, major market appeal, history, and damn fine hockey that comes pre-loaded in this Stanley Cup Final, you really couldn't ask for a better match-up than the Chicago Blackhawks versus the Boston Bruins.
That is, unless you're a Vancouver Canucks fan (forever at odds with the world, as they tend to be). Truthfully, the only thing that could make it a worse time for our friends on the West Coast would be Mark Messier as guest referee.
For Canuck fans, the NHL's dream Final is more of a torture-porn nightmare series. It's seven games of "The Human Centipede" on ice. Heck, most Vancouverites would prefer that -- yes, they would rather watch a mad scientist sewing faces to anuses than witness, say, Dave Bolland lifting the Stanley Cup again.
It probably goes without saying, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a Vancouverite that doesn't loathe the Blackhawks and Bruins something fierce.
The hatred for Chicago derives from a run of three consecutive playoff meetings, the first two of which were violent and vitriolic battles that saw Chicago advance, and the second of which saw the Blackhawks go on to win the Stanley Cup Final. The third go-round was a heated and hateful series as well, but it had a much happier ending for Vancouver fans: the Canucks finally "slayed the dragon", as it were, although I've never liked that phrase, since "slew the dragon" would have been more grammatically correct. But I digress.
Dragon slain, the Canucks continued, unimpeded, into the Stanley Cup Final, where they ran smack-dab into Boston, who spotted them two games before pummelling and humiliating them the rest of the way, breaking Vancouver's heart and leaving their citizens and city in shambles. (Sure, Vancouver did the rioting, but only because Boston made them.)
Vancouver's meetings with Chicago and Boston left such an impression on everyone involved that, even though they didn't meet again this year, neither the Blackhawks nor the Bruins could refrain from jabbing at the past. When asked about the Bruins' Cup win in 2011, Jonathan Toews said he was happy the Canucks didn't win it. When asked about the Penguins, Brad Marchand said "I think those guys will battle a lot harder than Vancouver did in the finals.”
This fire, unlike this fire, still burns strong. And now, Canuck fans are forced to watch two parties they despise going at it. It's like the Kim Kardashian sex tape, but with more "Chelsea Dagger".
How are Vancouverites feeling? Roberto Luongo, who still a Vancouverite, albeit reluctantly, said it best:
Game 1 was tough, although there was solace to be drawn from the fact that it looked like it might never end. "Good", said Canucks fans, "If no one scores, no one wins."
But here's the thing: when that game finally reached its conclusion, with the Blackhawks completing the comeback and Boston suffering the ignominy of blowing a two-goal lead in the third period, it occurred to me that Vancouverites are looking at this all wrong.
Sure, this Final is going to end with those of us in British Columbia having to stomach watching either Brad Marchand or Duncan Keith celebrate, and that will be unpleasant, undoubtedly. But nevermind that. If 2011 taught us anything, it's that there is nothing more heartbreaking than making it through three rounds of the postseason -- of being so close to the holy grail that you can feel its silvery magic coursing through you -- and then watching the other guys take it away.
Vancouver will never forget that feeling, especially since we seem to get a refresher about once every dozen years or so. It's as unpleasant, one imagines, as being "human centipeded".
Think about it, Canucks fans. Back in 2011, while Zdeno Chara was getting to first-and-a-half base with the greatest trophy in sports like it had twisted its ankle on the street outside, this is what the Canucks were doing:
Being sad. Taking a knee and trying to stomach the heartbreak of coming so close, only to come up short.
Some hung their heads; some watched through their fingers like they were witnessing Lindsay being stitched to Katsuro; Ryan Kesler bit his glove to keep from crying. For the Canucks and their fans, this hurt far, far more than what Chicago had done to them the two years prior. It was a hurt we wouldn't wish on our worst enemies.
Or would we? Yes, we would. And now we get to.
So stop your bellyaching, Vancouver. This isn't your nightmare Final. It may not be your dream Final, since your boys aren't in it, but it's close. While it's true that someone has to win, someone else has to lose.
Think about this: when all is said and done, there's a good chance that you'll get to watch Duncan Keith or Brad Marchand cry.