There’s precious little that matches (at least in the NHL regular season) the intensity of a Vancouver Canucks-Chicago Blackhawks game. Just ask (left to right) the Hawks’ Marian Hossa and Canucks Mason Raymond, Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa and goalie Roberto Luongo.
Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, NHLI via Getty Images files
VANCOUVER — Let the healing begin.
If Raffi Torres called Brent Seabrook to apologize for not quite beheading him in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, then Duncan Keith should definitely text Daniel Sedin and say he’s sorry for concussing him last season.
And Dave Bolland should apologize for calling Henrik and Daniel the “Sedin sisters” on the air, and Alex Burrows should reciprocate by telling Keith that he realizes pulling the defenceman’s curly locks during that fight in 2009 was not cool and he’ll never do it again.
And the Chicago Blackhawks, as a team, should make a formal undertaking never again to put up a seven-spot on Roberto Luongo and leave him in tears, as they did three playoff seasons back, but instead save the converted touchdown for when they next face Cory Schneider in the Vancouver Canucks’ net, if ever. And referee Dan O’Halloran should write a mea culpa to Daniel, explaining his regret over calling only a minor penalty on Keith for his appalling cheap shot — and attach a second chapter of the apology to cover the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, when he watched Boston’s Brad Marchand speed-bag Daniel’s head six times and shrugged it off as boys being boys.
(With a copy to Herr and Fru Sedin back in Örnsköldsvik, explaining that O’Halloran personally, and the NHL as a whole, has nothing against their son Daniel or Swedes in general, especially Swede Knox, the old linesman, who isn’t Swedish.)
And for good measure, though he’s not a Canuck any more, Willie Mitchell should drop a note to Jonathan Toews, saying he meant no harm when he clocked him at centre ice in 2009, putting the Blackhawks captain out for two weeks with a concussion.
And then everyone would feel better.
Only one problem: Torres never did reach out to Seabrook, so … as you were, men. Carry on.
We may live in the age of apology, in which all of mankind feels guilty about something and reparations for the sins of ancient times are all the rage. But the only rage pertinent to the Canucks-Blackhawks rivalry has long been the kind that leaves bruises and missing teeth, and scrambled brains.
We’re going to give them the benefit of the doubt that Friday night’s 2-1 shootout win by the Canucks was the exception that proves the rule.
“This is probably the best rivalry you’ll see in the NHL right now, us and Vancouver. The fans always get their money’s worth, and it’s always a great game to play in, a great test,” said Bolland, who’s a better pest than a prognosticator. Then again, who predicted that Game 8 of the season would be this big a turkey?
“The games have been unbelievable, and the pace of the games,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville had ventured at the morning skate. “You gotta like, from an entertainment perspective, the quality of the games, the intensity, the passion, the rivalry, the animosity. It’s all rolled into one and it seems to be like that every night.”
Well, maybe not every night. Friday, not so much. This one came out of the gate slow, and faded — rescued, for the home fans anyway, only by another gem from Luongo, who even won the shootout (thanks to the lone goal, by Jordan Schroeder) and will be harder than ever to dislodge as the starting keeper now.
Keith, the Hawks’ cornerstone defenceman and a key component of Canada’s gold medal-winning 2010 Olympic team, was given adequate opportunity Friday to express his regrets over the headshot to Daniel Sedin, in advance of the lavishly-hyped meeting at Rogers Arena, but wasn’t going there.
“I don’t really want to get into that situation,” said Keith. “It’s almost a year ago now. I’ve moved forward. I was glad to see him come back and play in the playoffs — and I mean that.”
And he probably does. Keith has no reputation as a headhunter, or even an overly rugged hitter. He can do it, but he’s more of a skating, puck-carrying greyhound. The Canucks made a few attempts to smear him Friday, but mostly missed the mark, and if there was any latent anger, it didn’t last with anyone but the fans, who booed him each time he touched the puck.
“I think, for the most part, I’m a pretty honest player,” Keith said. “Obviously, I got suspended and I was punished for that, you know, so that’s something obviously, I’m (not) very proud of.”
As to issuing a formal “oops” or texting an apology, it’s not everyone’s way.
“It does happen. When I took my hit from (Tampa’s Pavel) Kubina (in 2010), he called and apologized,” said Bolland, who limped off early in the third period after he was whacked across the ankle by Jannik Hansen.
“So I think it’s a great thing when it happens. You never want to hurt anybody out there in this game, it’s a privilege to be out there with each other. But you know, it’s either/or. I mean, did Torres (call) Seabrook? I don’t know.”
There’s been a fair amount of horsepucky written about how the players all bonded in solidarity during the lockout and how, league-wide, the spirit of brotherhood was sure to carry over and engender greater respect for one another during games.
And you couldn’t have disproven the theory by all the tiptoeing done Friday night.
“But it’s a different game when you’re on the ice. It’s a battle,” Bolland said.
This one wasn’t, especially.
O’Halloran, as fate (or the NHL’s Department of Humour) would have it, drew the refereeing assignment alongside Eric Furlatt.
The days leading up to the game were filled with many questions about revenge, and a few guarded comments about lingering hard feelings toward Keith.
But in Vancouver, where the consequences of Todd Bertuzzi’s mugging of Steve Moore hang over the franchise to this day — nine years after the incident, it’s still before the courts — revenge is a word that must not be spoken, or even hinted at in a team meeting.
The company line, on both sides, was “win the game, first. It’s a short season. Two points are more important than a pound of flesh.”
Unofficially, neither team would urinate on the other to put out a fire.
Oh, by the way: Raffi Torres actually did call to apologize for the headshot on Marian Hossa that cost the big Chicago winger the rest of his season last spring.
Of course, Torres was a Phoenix Coyote by then.
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