The scene is a sports bar on the Oregon coast, equidistant between San Jose and Vancouver.
A man sits at the bar. He’s wearing a teal blue jersey with the name Makarov stitched on the back. He’s joined by a man wearing the classic original Canucks’ jersey with the name Lever on the back.
The first man nods to his new companion.
“That time of year again,” he says.
“I know,” says the man in the Canucks’ gear. “I never know if I should be excited or just prepare myself for the inevitable. It hurts less that way.”
“Tell me about it. We’ve been runners-up more times than Susan Lucci. We’re always there. We’re just never there at the end. It gets to you after a while.”
“Hah. We wrote the book on heartbreak. You know what team has played the most playoff games in the last five years? That’s right, Bubba. Your Vancouver Canucks. And you know how many Stanley Cups we have to show for it? That’s right. None. Zippo. Nada. Niente. It’s more frustrating than a date with Marsha Brady.”
“Five years? Try 15 years, pal. We’ve missed the playoffs once in the last 15 years and we’ve never made it to the finals. You’d think, one year, things would go our way. You’d think, one year, we’d get lucky. I thought 2011 was our year. Do you know what it’s like when you’re knocked out by a goal that’s set up by a stanchion?”
“Don’t bring up 2011. Please don’t bring up 2011. There isn’t enough liquor in this bar to make me forget 2011. We get one bounce in 40 years and we still don’t win the Cup. That reminds me. Say ‘hi’ to Raffi for me.”
“So what’s going to happen this year? Geez, Louise, we had the craziest season. We trade Douglas Murray and Ryane Clowe at the deadline and you’d think we’ve given up. Then we start winning. Brent Burns was our best defenceman. Now he’s our fifth-best forward, but he makes a difference. But Antti Niemi has been a rock all season. It’s almost confusing for us when we get good goaltending.”
“Don’t get me started on goaltending. Have you been following the soap opera we’ve got in Vancouver? Remember Roberto Luongo, the guy who beat you two years ago? He’s the backup now, but he’s making $6.7 million this year. Last game he let in five goals in three-and-a-half minutes and he still might be starting Game 1. Only in Vancouver.”
“Maybe. But our top three centres are Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski and we couldn’t score goals all year. We scored fewer goals than Phoenix, and they don’t even try. Patrick Marleau had nine goals in his first six games. I thought he was going to hit 50. Then he has eight over the final 39 games. But he’s only in his 15th season. You can understand the inconsistency.”
“Don’t talk to me about inconsistency. You ever watched Alex Edler? Looks like Bobby Orr one minute, Colton Orr the next. Here’s a game we like to play in the playoffs. It’s called Find Mason Raymond.”
“So what do you think happens this year?”
“No idea. I just hope it’s quick and painless, but it’s never that easy with the Canucks. Is it possible they both lose?”
“I thought about that but, no, someone has to win. I’m not getting my hopes up. It’s been the same story for 21 years. I remember that first year we made the playoffs, in ’94. Upset Detroit in the first round. Took Toronto to seven in the second round. I thought, just give us a couple of more years, then watch out. I’m still waiting.”
“I just wish it was 21 years. Try living it for 42 years, then you can talk. But it was nice meeting you. What business are you in, by the way?”
“I’m a motivational speaker.”
“Small world. Me, too.”
© Copyright (c) The Province