November 01, 2013

1994 Vancouver Canucks: One Last Look Back At 1994

The following is an excerpt from my unreleased book: Remembering The 1994 Vancouver Canucks. Please see below for the full table of contents.

June 15th, 2011

With the score knotted at two, the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks faceoff to start overtime in game two of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.Off the opening faceoff Daniel Sedin quickly dumps the puck into the Boston zone. The diminutive Alex Burrows zooms in on the puck, somehow beating out the long reach of the giant defenseman Zdeno Chara. Burrows bursts behind the net, scoring a rare wraparound goal just 11 seconds into overtime! The goal gives the Canucks a 2-0 series lead. They only need 2 wins in the next 5 games to finally become Stanley Cup champions!

I vividly remember the Burrows winning goal in game 2. For the first time that entire Stanley Cup playoffs I allowed myself to think “this is really happening.” “The Canucks are going to do this.” “That was a goal of destiny – the Canucks are destined to win the Stanley Cup!”

That was a rare feeling in the spring of 2011. For the first time ever the Canucks were truly Stanley Cup contenders – favorites even, in the eyes of many. But I never enjoyed a moment of it.

When the same Alex Burrows “slayed the dragon” in the Chicago series I let out a horrendous scream of relief that scared my girlfriend’s dog for the rest of the night. The worst part is no one could tell if the Canucks had won or lost based solely on my exasperation. I was secluded in the basement and my primal urge was one of relief and exasperation more than joy or celebration. I sat downstairs for probably 20 minutes, completely exhausted, before emerging to go for a long walk by myself. Remember, the dog was
scared of me.

So was everyone. I was scared of me. I continued to be scared of me the rest of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.  The Canucks knocked off Nashville and San Jose, but I continued to be a wreck. I was a wreck until Burrows quick overtime goal against Boston in game 2.

With that win and the seemingly commanding series lead, I decided I needed to try and actually enjoy what was going on. For the life of me I could not understand why I enjoyed that ride so little. I still do not comprehend it. But that night I sat back content and proud.

Oddly my thoughts quickly drifted from Henrik and Daniel, Kesler and Burrows, Louie and Vigneault back all the years before when it was so tough to be a Canucks fan. King Richard Brodeur. Stan Smyl. Harold Snepsts. And of course my thoughts quickly came back to 1994. Back to Trevor Linden and Pavel Bure, Kirk McLean’s save against Calgary and Greg Adams! Greg Adams! It truly was the best of times. A Vancouver Stanley Cup championship in 2011 would be for those guys as much as the current group, I decided. That made me happy.

That is also when I realized even if the Canucks had won the Stanley Cup in 2011, it wasn’t the same. I had not enjoyed almost any of the 2011 run because I was full of apprehension. I wanted more badly than ever to win that damned Stanley Cup, just so I could feel relief. I can’t imagine what the players must have been feeling.

It was different back in 1994. Maybe it was my more youthful (naïve?) way back then. But I enjoyed every step of the way. I didn’t enjoy 2011 at all, except for the first few moments after that Burrows OT goal.

That’s when I realized that nothing would ever replace the 1994 Vancouver Canucks in this fan’s heart. I suspect many fans of that era can say the same. And truth be told, as much as I wanted to see Trevor Linden hoist the Stanley Cup and pass it around to McLean, to Bure, to Ronning, to Quinn . . .  I wouldn’t change a thing. Not even the ending.

Of course, somehow, the Canucks failed to finish the job in 2011. I still do not understand what happened. I still have not gone back to revisit it, and I likely never really will. I swear to god that when I die I want the Vancouver Canucks to be my pall bearers so they can let me down one last time. The Canucks always let me down, except for in 1994.

I had a definite suspicion that the 2011 playoffs would change me somehow. I had no real idea how at the time. But I guess part of me knew I had to take a break from hockey, at least for some period of time. I needed to be allowed to let go from my own self-imposed binds. A Stanley Cup championship would have so nicely allowed me that freedom. I simply could not go through the heartache again.

The 2011 playoffs was supposed to be the crescendo of my fandom. I was truly cemented as a Canucks fan forever following their terrific 1994 Stanley Cup final run. Even though that team, too, lost in game 7, I would never go back and change a thing. However, I was really hoping the 2011 team would complete the saga, finally winning the Stanley Cup and ending the story. That would allow me to move on with a great deal of satisfaction. I badly needed that sense of completion.

Of course, the 2011 team did not win. Despite being a superior team to that of 1994, these Canucks, felled by injuries, questionable refereeing and Boston's penalty kill, also lost the Stanley Cup in game 7. But this time, despite an incredible season, the only lasting feeling is that of disappointment.

At least we will always have 1994, right Canucks fans?

June 11th/14th, 1994 - The Highs, The Lows

Bure-ing The Flames
The Russian Rocket
Captain Kirk

Shooting Down The Stars
The Elbow
The Mighty Pat Quinn
Cliff Ronning: The Little Man That Could

Be-Leaf It Or Not!
Forever A Canuck: Trevor Linden
Greg Adams! Greg Adams!

New York: All The World Is A Stage
The Penalty Shot
Nathan Lafayette And That Damn Goal Post
What A Mess!
Doug Lidster: The Lone Ranger
It Was A Riot!

June 15th, 2011: Looking Back At 1994

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