The 2011 Stanley Cup Final between the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins was one of the most memorable matchups in NHL history, and there’s still plenty of bad blood amongst those combatants 11 years later.
Boston ultimately captured Lord Stanley’s mug in seven games, although not before the team dropped the first two contests on the road against the Canucks. The Bruins did respond shortly after, rallying to outscore their opponent 12-1 over the next two.
But after Game 2, according to long-time captain Zdeno Chara, Vancouver’s skaters were getting a head start on their championship celebrations at TD Garden. The 45-year-old alleges he and his teammates witnessed them practicing raising the Cup and reciting how to hand it off to each other.
As you might expect, Chara’s comments have garnered plenty of attention across the hockey community. Former Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa chimed in, denying the claims and saying the premature celebration “never happened.....100% didn't happen."
Bieksa spent 10 seasons with Vancouver from 2005-15, making seven separate playoff appearances during his tenure, including the 2011 Stanley Cup run. The sting of losing that round still runs deep for everyone involved, though, and understandably so.
Chara, who announced his retirement in September after 24 NHL seasons, made these claims while discussing the intense series on the Games with Names podcast with Julian Edelman and Sam Morril. The seven-time All-Star also stated that these events helped motivate his club through Games 3-7.
“After losing two games in Vancouver, we saw players from Vancouver coming on the ice in the Garden, and they were actually practicing how they would be lifting the Cup and handing off the Cup to each other,” Chara said. “And we found out about these things and we were like ‘f**k this, we are not going to allow this to happen.’ It just fuelled us.”
The former Bruin continued, claiming the 2011 Canucks also allegedly inquired to league officials about the number of friends and family permitted to join the on-ice celebrations.
“We heard about a few things. There were some rumours that they called the league and they were asking, I believe it was after… I don’t know what game it was… they were calling the league and asking how many people or family members they can take on the ice after they win the championship,” Chara mentioned. “We found out about these things… For us that was a huge huge motivation.”
There was no love lost between these two franchises back then, as all seven games featured plenty of physicality, which spilled over into the following season. That resulted in a heated bout when these two teams renewed their rivalry, with most hockey fans referring to it as “Game 8.”
While Chara never shied away from throwing around his towering 6-foot-9, 250-pound frame, the intensity of that playoff series versus the Canucks is something he’ll never forget.
“I wouldn’t say dirty, they were just like maybe a little bit too, how should I say, maybe cocky is not the right word, but they were having a chip on their shoulders,” Chara said. “They had some players that had some reputation of being role players and agitators, and not really backing up the way they played. But they were good players, it was like they did some stuff that really really fuelled us.”
The Bruins and Canucks are headed in different directions these days, with Boston leading the league at 21-3-1 and 43 points. Vancouver, meanwhile, sits sixth in the Pacific Division at 12-12-3 with 27 points and is likely headed for a rebuild.
With that in mind, chances are Boston and Vancouver won’t be meeting up in the Stanley Cup Final again any time soon. We'll always have 2011, though.
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