April 10, 2012
Who should Canadians pull for?Making the case for the Canucks and Senators
By Robert Tychkowski, Bruce Garrioch, QMI Agency
Canucks: watch ’em cause you hate ’em
I'm not going to pretend I like the Canucks.
Nobody likes the Canucks. Nobody outside the sushi dens and granola taverns of Vancouver, anyway.
They whine. They dive. They turtle. They want referees to fight their battles. They are arrogant, they bite people and their fans set fire to police cars.
And that's why we watch them. Say what you will about the Canucks, they are never boring.
Would you throw up a little in your mouth if you saw Ryan Kesler handing the Stanley Cup to Maxim Lapierre? Of course you would.
But if Ottawa is playing on one channel and the Canucks are on another, who are you watching?
Ottawa? Nobody wants to watch vanilla ice cream melt Ñ you're going to watch the hated Canucks because you know you're going to see something good.
Or good and stupid.
It's usually all of the above with these guys.
Remember Dale Weise, agreeing to fight Shawn Thornton, then hiding behind a linesman when Thornton dropped his gloves? Who on Ottawa can get your blood boiling like that?
Remember Alex Burrows pulling Duncan Keith's hair? Or diving and flailing every time he's touched, then crying about the non calls?
What's more compelling than Roberto Luongo walking a psychological tightrope above GM Place, with his own fans ready to heckle at the first sign of trouble?
Does Lapierre, with his yapping and hacking and never manning up to fight his own battles, represent Canadians, or the way we want hockey played? God, no. But you watch just to see what's going to happen next.
All to the backdrop of former Vancouver play-by-play guy Jim Hughson calling it like he sees it for CBC.
They aren't all bad — Kevin Bieska and the Sedins are among several good honest Canucks Ñ but they are bad enough to make it fun.
And they're good enough to drive you insane.
You watch the Canucks for the same reason people watch villains in wrestling — to see them beaten — but it never seems to happen, which makes them even more infuriating.
You can have your Senators. I'm watching Vancouver. I'm not going to like everything I see, but I can't turn away.
Senators: quintessentially Canadian
When is the last time Henrik and Daniel Sedin took a snowmobile to the Rogers Centre for Vancouver Canucks practice?
I know, it's ridiculous, it never snows on the West Coast of Canada. But just wondering.
Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson has done it. He might hail from Sweden, but the 39-year-old owns a couple of sleds. If there's snow on the ground, the odd time he'll put on his helmet and head to practice in style.
Is there a better snapshot of true Canadiana than that particular moment? No way.
Seriously, that could never happen in Vancouver. The twins probably have to climb into their SUV, stop at one of the six Starbucks on the way to the rink for a latte, then show up fashionably late to make sure they're part of the culture.
There is no question, with only two teams from North of the border in the playoffs, Ottawa is Canada's team. The way the Senators have played this year represents everything that Canadians should like in a team.
The Senators have been the underdogs, selected to finish No. 15 overall in the East by The Hockey News. Ottawa has battled the odds to make the post-season. There were no expectations coming into this year. None at all.
Sure, the Toronto Maple Leafs are widely regarded as Canada's team, but they haven't made the playoffs since the lockout ended in 2004, even with genius Brian Burke in charge. The Senators have only missed twice in that stretch.
The Senators' best player is centre Jason Spezza. A pure Canadian in every sense of the word, he has it all: The ability to make plays that lift people out of their seats, good looks and an 'Aw Shucks' personality.
Coach Paul MacLean is beloved on the East Coast and GM Bryan Murray is from the Ottawa Valley. Yes, Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault is one of the best, but the Canucks organization is led by sourpuss former agent Mike Gillis.
It's hard to hate the Senators. The same can't be said for the Canucks. They are Canada's most-disliked team and it's going to be difficult for any fan to get over that hurdle, which is as high as the Rocky Mountains.