Canucks try to erase 18-year Cup drought

Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault jokes with the media after he announced player Manny Malhotra...

Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault jokes with the media after he announced player Manny Malhotra was cleared to play following a team practice in Vancouver on May 28, 2011. (REUTERS/Andy Clark)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:36 PM ET

VANCOUVER - When a number of orcas were seen breeching in the dark blue waters of Vancouver harbour near Stanley Park two weeks ago, it reportedly was considered a lucky charm for the beloved Canucks by some First Nations people here.

Was it a coincidence that these killer whales came to Stanley Park during the Stanley Cup run of a Vancouver team whose logo is an orca?

Not in the minds of these natives.

Of course, they aren’t alone in their belief that good omens abound for the Canucks heading into their much-anticipated Cup final against the Boston Bruins.

Las Vegas thinks so too.

Many sports books both in Sin City and on the web have given the nod for the Canucks to capture the franchise’s first NHL championship, making them minus-225 favourites to win the Cup over the underdog Bruins.

There was even a story in one of the local papers on Sunday that a double rainbow that arched over the Rogers Arena prior to Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks last month was a sign that good things were in the cards for coach Alain Vigneault’s team.

All this optimistic hype and hoopla makes for a great atmosphere here in Canada’s most scenic metropolis.

What it fails to address, however, is that the Canucks are battling more than just Zdeno Chara and friends in this series.

They are battling history.

It has been 18 years since a Canadian-based team has brought the Stanley Cup back to the Great White North. Indeed, you have to rewind all the way to 1993 to find the previous time it happened, the feat accomplished by the great Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens.

Remember Roy’s famous wink at Tomas Sandstrom after he robbed the Los Angeles Kings forward from close in during that series? Heck Wayne Gretzky was the captain of that Kings team. That’s how long it’s been.

Almost two decades have passed since then, and it is hard to believe that Canadian hockey fans still haven’t had the chance to erupt in a Stanley Cup celebration.

They’ve had their opportunities, sure. Four of them.

In 1994, riots took place here after Game 7 of the Canucks-Rangers final. Of course, those shenanigans took place after Vancouver had lost.

In 2004, the Calgary Flames went seven games against the Tampa Bay Lightning only to see Vinny Lecavalier hoist the Cup. Two years later, Edmonton went the distance against Carolina only to be gutted.

The Ottawa Senators made their only trip to the final in 2007. For once, a Canadian team didn’t lose in seven. It only took the Anaheim Ducks five games to dump Daniel Alfredsson and company.

There is no doubt the 2011 Canucks want to snap this Canadian jinx. At this point, most of them are aware that they are now considered by many around the country to be “Canada’s team.”

Could that be the problem with those previous Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa teams that reached the finals and failed to seal the deal?

Is the pressure of carrying the hopes of an entire country simply too heavy a burden?

It shouldn’t be for these Canucks. Not when their top three players not named Roberto Luongo are two Swedes and an American - the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler.

While Bruins players certainly aren’t the same types of celebrities in Boston as the Canucks are here, they are beginning to receive the star treatment in Beantown, where the Red Sox and, to a lesser extent, the Patriots and Celtics, normally rule.

On Saturday, Milan Lucic and Johnny Boychuk quickly discovered how popular they are becoming in New England.

“We were out at lunch and people started cheering us,” Lucic, grinning from ear to ear, told reporters on Sunday.

Through it all, the Bruins are keeping their feet on the ground.

“We’re treating it as just another series,” rookie Tyler Seguin said. “What happened in the past doesn’t mean anything.”

In their quest to break the 18-year Canadian Stanley Cup jinx, the Canucks couldn’t agree more.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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