Hop on the VAN-wagon

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- The Canada's Team theme isn't exactly being embraced here.

"It doesn't really matter. We don't care," said Roberto Luongo, most likely our national netminder at the Winter Olympics here next February.

"We're playing for ourselves, our teammates and the fans in Vancouver," he said.

It's like there's an official team quote on the subject.

"We're not worried about that stuff. This is about ourselves, our organization, Vancouver and all of British Columbia," says Willie Mitchell.

"We have a great fan base here in B.C. and Vancouver," said coach Alain Vigneault. "People have been very supportive and I'm sure people are going to continue to be supportive. If anyone else wants to join in we're more than happy. If anyone else wants to join, we'll take their support."

There's next to no mention of the Canada's Team theme in the Vancouver newspapers and only visiting media - which helped swell the scrum to 53 bodies by the count of media relations director T.C. Carling after practice here yesterday - even inquire about it.

Indeed, you get the idea that the Vancouver Canucks couldn't care less if they're the last Canadian team still skating in the Stanley Cup playoffs and/or how the rest of the country might be taking it one way or the other.

Funny how it works on this side of the Rocky Mountains.

It's like there's the perception that nobody in, oh, say, Toronto ever watches them play anyway because they don't drop the puck here until 10 p.m. Eastern as a rule, although it will be 9 p.m. EDT when they start Game 1 of the Western Conference semi-final here tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks.

It's like there's the feeling which exists here and is perceived to exist from the rest of the nation that they are quote-unquote "in Canada but not of Canada" as it was explained to me here yesterday by transplants to the left coast.

Any time any other Canadian team has become Canada's Team for the remainder of the Stanley Cup playoffs, there's been a national focus, which goes beyond CBC's Hockey Night In Canada.

I mean, it's becoming a famous number.

Like 1940.

For years fans chanted "Nineteen forty!" to the New York Rangers before they finally won the Stanley Cup 52 years later.

Like 1967.

The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won the treasured trophy was Canada's Centennial.

It's 1993.

That's the last year a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup. And here tonight, the Canucks, from failing hands, have been thrown the torch the Montreal Canadiens last held high for Canada 16 years ago.

Still nothin'.

"It's always nice when you get more media. Toronto and Montreal have to follow us now," said Kyle Wellwood.

But that said, he doesn't think Upper and Lower Canada will be holding their breath for this Canadian team tonight.

"I don't think they'll be watching the second round too close," he said. "I think they'll be waiting to see if we can get a little bit further along."

Partially, perhaps, that's because the last time the Canucks were Canada's Team was back in 1994 and since then they haven't made it past the second round.

Vancouver went seven against the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup final in 1994. Calgary and Edmonton took turns, also going to Game 7 of the final in 2004 and 2006 and Ottawa made it to the final but expired in five games two years ago.

There's also the thought that the Canucks may technically be Canada's Team, but with Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Mats Sundin, Mattias Ohlund and Alexander Edler from Sweden, Sami Salo and Ossi Vaananen from Finland and Jannik Hansen from Denmark, this is more Scandinavia's Team.

At least there was one hopeful voice in the room.

Grimsby, Ont., native Kevin Bieksa, when asked about Vancouver being Canada's Team said: "Hopefully we'll get some of the fans back East to start cheering for us."


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