When we arrived at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary this morning for skate, the Canucks were a light-hearted bunch. Despite trailing the Flames 2-1 in the best-of-seven Western Conference Quarter-Final series, they were loose. Smiling. Laughing. Normal.
No, when times are tough they don’t run around with their arms in the air, screaming, like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone when he realizes his family left without him.
Cool, calm and collected, consistently.
The focus was on the Flames and winning Game 4 as the Canucks took to the ice for morning skate. Thirteen players attended, including Alex Burrows, who was his usual grinning self.
Then, out of nowhere, to my right Burrows was being helped down the Canucks tunnel and into the team medical room by team personnel. He was in noticeable pain and groaning loudly; he was overheard saying “help” as he made his way closer to the dressing room.
And just like that, the game being played in Calgary tonight became way less and way more significant all at once.
There’s still a lot of mystery around what happened to Burrows and the only update we have is that he was taken to the hospital for the injury and nothing medical. That’s a relief.
Media speculation has called the injury everything from a broken wrist to a broken rib. We still don’t know for certain.
It’s injuries like this that help remind me I’m a hockey reporter. It’s easy to get caught up in the importance of this and that and who said what to who and when and where and why and how and and and and and…and none of that matters when a player and friend is wheeled out of an arena on a stretcher, into an ambulance, en route to the hospital.
It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. My dad used to say that a lot when I was young and it rings true now.
Hopefully the Canucks are able to douse the Flames tonight and win Game 4 to even the series, but what’s important is a healthy Burrows.
Should we find out pre-game that Burrows will be fine, then the focus shifts to topping Calgary and doing it for Burr.
Scary instances like this have the ability to bring teams together and that will certainly ring true tonight.
Fingers crossed Burrows is able to attend to cheer on the Canucks – he’ll be in their thoughts whether he’s in the building or not.
I received an interesting email from a Canucks fan named Erin yesterday, she’s trying hard to convince her non-hockey fan of a roommate to cheer for the Vancouver Canucks and she had a couple of questions.
One query in particular caught my attention and the answer may be part of the reason the Canucks are clawing their way back into the Western Conference Quarter-Final.
From Erin: Yesterday Kevin Bieksa tweeted, “Good re-group day today for the boys! Lots of team bonding….Got these guys right where we want them!!”Do you know what they would do on their day off? Obviously Booth and Rome ate breakfast together, but do you know what anyone else did? My roommate thought they should go to Disney Land or the beach.
Disneyland wasn’t in the plans, but time at the beach certainly was.
Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault gave his team this past Monday off to clear their heads and the players took him up on that.
Hockey, and the most epic comeback in franchise history, were not the focus; Roberto Luongo and Alex Burrows rented bikes and made their way through Venice Beach, Mason Raymond and Kevin Bieksa did some shopping, and a group of Canucks, 10 to be exact, made their way down to the beach to play an intense game of volleyball.
I wasn’t there, neither was photographer Jeff Vinnick, so there are no photos of the guys kicking up sand, but according to Keith Ballard, it was quite the show.
The guys split up into two teams of five and played with only one rule: underhand serves only – Ballard joked the rules was put in place because of his lethal overhand serve. Turns out Dan Hamhuis can hang up his skates anytime because he’s basically a professional volleyball player, although he did later admit to having a court at his home in Smithers, BC.
Ballard said the guys bonded and had a lot of laughs, especially at the different approaches to volleyball from the North Americans compared to the Swedish players. When a ball came flying over the net, Ballard and others reacted by diving into the sand to bump it up, while the Swedes, when faced with the same dilemma, kicked a foot out to save the ball.
This, of course, has nothing to do with anything, other than it’s good to know the Canucks didn’t spent the days between Games 3 and 4 moping in their rooms. They moved on, bonded, and it certainly showed Wednesday as Vancouver rallied for a 3-1 win to stay alive.
No word on if a volleyball game is scheduled prior to Game 5, Kits beach may not be ready for all the underhand madness.
Through three games Ferland has one assist, 18 hits and 19 penalty minutes. Irrelevant may not have been the best word to use as Ferland has helped with Calgary’s grit, but in terms of being a player Vancouver is focusing on, Bieksa nailed it – he’s irrelevant.
Ironically, Bieksa may actually be the one under the skin of the Flames.
The photo above is of a sticker that was placed on the door of the Flames media production room near the Canucks dressing room at the Scotiabank Saddledome. A cameraman noticed it first, he told a photographer, who told me. And here we are.
No one knows who put the sticker there or when, but it more than represents everything right and wrong with this series so far.
The trash-talking element of it is golden, there’s no arguing that. Clearly this presumed Flames fan feels Ferland is very relevant and he’s making an impact, and his voice has been heard.
The photo chosen to taunt the Canucks is where things go sideways. A poor picture choice indeed as Ferland is catching Luca Sbisa with a shoulder, sending him head-first into the boards. It was charging or boarding or aggravated assault (kidding), they called it a clean body check.
Neither Bieksa and Sbisa had anything to say when I showed them the photo, but you better believe this bulletin board material will be in the back of their minds during Game 4 Tuesday night.
The message out of the Canucks room after practice Monday was that they’re focused on getting away from the post-whistle battles and instead playing their game. Whether or not they can execute their game plan and take Game 4 remains to be seen, but if the nastiness of this series downgrades to feistiness, it’s a dream series come true.
Facing a team in the playoffs has the potential to create a new rivalry or spark an existing one and that’s exactly what’s happening here.
The Canucks and Flames haven’t played meaningful hockey against each other in years and they’re more than making up for it so far. And we’re not even halfway through the series, should the full seven games be needed.
It’s too early in the series to be riding high on anything; fitting that today of all days someone was a little too high on Ferland and the Flames.
Things change over time and that’s the case with the Vancouver Canucks towel power tradition.
A quick history lesson:
With the Canucks trailing the Chicago Black Hawks 4-1 in Game 2 of the 1982 Western Conference Final, Vancouver coach Roger Neilson couldn’t take any more of referee Bob Myers and his questionable officiating.
The Canucks were being assessed penalties left, right and centre, leaving Neilson and the Vancouver bench up in arms. In protest, troublemaker Tiger Williams suggested to Neilson that he throw sticks on the ice, but Neilson, having already tried that, had a better idea. He surrendered.
Neilson grabbed a white towel and placed it on the end of Jim Nill’s stick to signify a surrender flag and he held it high for all to see. Stan Smyl, Gerry Minor, Williams and others joined in as the Canucks symbolically voiced their displeasure with Myers’ work.
Neilson was escorted off the ice after the stunt and he received a hefty fine for his actions, but the damage had already been done with Canucks fans in a frenzy.
When the Canucks returned to Vancouver for Game 3, it was clear a tradition had been born as fans waved a blizzard of white towels in support of their beloved Canucks.
Fast-forward to today and while the meaning of the white towel changed long ago, towel power remains alive and well. Plenty of copycats have popped up over the years all over professional sports, but towel power began in Vancouver and during Game 2 last Friday night, Canucks fans were as loud and proud as ever. The result on the ice was fitting.
Sunday night in Calgary, it’ll be a different story.
The “C of Red” will be in full effect and having not seen playoff hockey since April 27, 2009 – a span of 5 years, 11 months, 23 days, 52,392 hours, 3,143,520 minutes and 188,611,200 seconds – the Scotiabank Saddledome will be rocking.
Thanks to the Canucks training and equipment staff, there will be towels waving tonight as well.
A box of 400 Canucks playoff towels is in Calgary and I’ll personally be handing out 200 prior to the game. Come to the seats near Vancouver’s bench and tunnel, 7 p.m. and be in Canucks gear to get one. Ditto for Game 4 Tuesday.
Wave that towel like never before and if a Flames fan brings up the fact that our tradition began in surrender, just remind them things change over time – Calgary is back in the playoffs, after all.
Tag your towel photos with #TowelPower to share with other Canucks fans!
I was in Whistler visiting friends last weekend when my phone began to go crazy.
Like Charlie Sheen crazy.
Like I had just Instagrammed a picture of peach pie crazy.
Like Keyser Söze didn’t actually exist in the Usual Suspects (what the what?!?) crazy.
I knew in a heartbeat exactly why my phone was blowing up, at 3 a.m. nonetheless: hockey’s back!!!!!
My first instinct was to run the seawall until a joyous orca jumped over me in celebration, then I remembered running is exercise and I was all like yaaaaa maybe not.
Whatever negative feelings I had about the lockout vanished as quickly as my New Year’s Resolution to be less awesome. Forget 113 days of boardrooms and mediators and negotiations and he said, he said and missing the greatest game on Earth; close your eyes, imagine the lights at Rogers Arena going down and picture your Vancouver Canucks skating onto the ice as they prepare to do battle.
Nothing else matters, hockey is back.
Fort Nucks is back.
Behind the Lens is back.
@CanucksGame is back.
I’m back writing, you’re back reading. I like this.
I’ve felt like a 3-year-old on Christmas morning since the announcement and this mix of excitement and anticipation likely won’t subside until the off-season – whenever that is.
The Canucks, who held a 3-2 lead in the third period during Saturday afternoon’s game in Denver, ended up losing to the Avalanche 4-3. Bonkers, blarg and bummer.
We’re halfway to Nashville as I write this and the plane is noticeably quieter than normal. That was an uncharacteristic loss for the guys, so I think they’re all taking a little time to reflect. Or I can’t hear them because I have noise-cancelling headphones on. Either way, I’m sure the ride will get livelier as we get closer to the Music City.
Post-game a lot of reporters were quizzing the Canucks on if they took the Avalanche lightly and from what I observed, they most certainly did not. I’ve never seen a team so focus on a common goal than this squad; I even think it trumps the preparation I saw during the incredible run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. (Ugh – sorry to bring that up out of nowhere. Makes me punchy.)
Anyways, all I’m saying is that when it’s time to focus, these guys lock into the zone and become robots – think Terminator, not Johnny Five. BUT when it’s time to play, they play.
Friday was a great example of that. Soccer is normally the team’s warm-up game of choice, yet for whatever reason, when we arrived to the rink for practice, the Sedins, Edler and Hamhuis (who had all taken a cab to the Pepsi Center ahead of the team bus), had created ‘volleysoccer’ and were in the middle of a heated game.
Two players to a side, kick to serve, ball can hit the ground upon service, then three dribbles or less and it had to be over the net, constructed of three long pieces of blue foam padding. The Sedins beat Hamhuis and Edler and it looked like the game was over when Kevin Bieksa came in and kicked the net over in a hilarious half-kidding fit of rage that more players couldn’t play. Henrik told him he could play, Kesler too.
Kesler joined the Sedins, while Juice partnered with Eager and Hammer and the World Championship of Volleysoccer played out, much to the amusement of everyone.
Teammates, pretending to stretch and prepare for practice, stood around and watched the back and forth battle; Derek Roy, riding an exercise bike behind the makeshift halfway court, laughed and laughed and laughed. He admitted being a bit caught off guard with the level of competitiveness in pre-practice warm-up – apparently they play nice in Dallas?
The game came down to a thrilling final point and after Hamhuis blazed a serve over the net, he got a toe under Daniel Sedin’s header of a return, allowing Edler to wallop the ball onto the ground past Kesler for the point and the win and a little celebratory hoorah.
Moral of the story: the Canucks compete hard at everything and I mean everything. They don’t even take warm-up lightly.
Sunday is a practice day in Nashville, then this trip gets real, like really really real, with three games in four nights beginning Monday.
Vancouver’s final game of the regular season plays out two weeks from now, and then it’s playoff time. The Canucks will be ready, what about you?
Time to get honk tonk!
P.S. – Say whip. Whip. Now say Cool Whip. Cool WHip. Whip. Whip. Cool whip. Cool WHip. Bahahahahha.
Dan Hamhuis speaks as highly of Nashville as any NHL player does of any NHL city.
A day like today makes it easy to understand why.
It was a scorching 26 degrees Tuesday afternoon and Broadway Street was as packed as I’ve ever seen it. Live country music was blaring out of every windowless watering hole along the strip, with cowboy boot wearing tourists soaking it all in.
Hamhuis doesn’t love Nashville because of the weather, music or the boots; after being drafted by the Predators 12th overall in 2001, he spent six seasons in Music City, USA, so attractions like the Grand Ole Opry aren’t so grand to him anymore.
He loves Nashville because it’s home away from home.
“It’s always fun to be back in this city, it meant a lot to me while I played here,” said Hamhuis. “I really enjoyed my time with this organization and in this city.”
Hamhuis had a little extra jump in his step this morning whether he was talking to teammates or shaking hand after hand after hand because like in Cheers, everybody knows his name and they’re always glad he came.
Especially Clay Butler.
Clay, a 27-year-old living with Down syndrome that Dan met through Best Buddies Tennessee in 2007, will be outside the Canucks dressing room post-game, in a Canucks Hamhuis jersey, smile as wide as can be.
Seeing Clay is one of the highlights for Hamhuis, Clay is part of his extended family – the Nashville chapter.
“I’m excited to see him,” said Hamhuis, pictured above with Clay in 2011. “It was just his birthday, I can’t believe how old he’s getting already; he’s an amazing guy.”
The walk from the team hotel to Bridgestone Arena is roughly 30 seconds so players briefly enjoyed the sun and walked over this afternoon. The bus was still parked out front, as usual, but more to collect luggage that will travel in the belly of Air Canucks.
Before walking across, I asked bus driver Pat, who has been on the job since the Predators came to Nashville in 1998 and now drives every professional sports team that comes through town, about Hamhuis.
He’d still be talking up Hamhuis if I didn’t excuse myself to get to work.
“Of all the guys in the NHL, he’s easily in the top 10 as far as class acts go,” smiled Pat. “I’d even say he’s top five. He meant a lot to this team and city and still takes time for the fans – he just stood over there and signed for all those people.”
The fans Pat pointed to was a group of roughly 10 people and of all the different Canucks and Predators jerseys and shirts they were wearing, six had Hamhuis on the back.
In return for all the love, Hamhuis has never scored against his former team.
It’s tough to say what Predators fans will do when Hamhuis fills the net – cheer or jeer?
Let’s hope we find out tonight.
Enjoy the game, we’re in for yet another thriller.
”I was beside him on the bench during the first game he played after he was called-up,” laughed Bo Horvat, “and he just starts barking. I don’t know what he was doing. He’s always full of energy and loves to have fun.”
When this Canucks road trip started 10 days ago, I went through the roster and realized I knew next to nothing about Ronalds Kenins. His hockey career, sure that information is readily available anywhere. But who is Ronalds Kenins the person?
I read his Wikipedia page. Nothing.
I watched his YouTube videos. Zilch.
I creeped his Twitter account. Nadda.
Who is Ronalds Kenins?
”He’s a hilarious guy, always cracking jokes,” explained Horvat, who has assisted on all three of Kenins’ goals this season. “He’s vocal on the ice and we’ve developed some good chemistry knowing where the other guy is and when he’s going to hit the holes.
”Oh,” added Horvat, “he always says everyone’s names with The in front of it, like The Horvat or The Stanton. Hilarious.”
I walked with Nick Bonino to the bus after morning skate Thursday and asked him the same question. Tell me something, anything about Kenins.
”He’s a quiet guy, but he’s funny,” he said, unable to provide a specific example. “All I know,” he smiled, “is that he bought me breakfast when he first got here. So he’s okay in my books.”
The only other nugget Bonino provided was that Kenins does not appreciate if you leave your room service tray in front of his hotel room door every night in New York.
”He didn’t really like me doing that,” chuckled Bonino.
When we check-in to the hotel in each city, there’s typically a list of what room number everyone is staying in and for whatever reason, I gave that a glance in Boston. I’m glad I did.
Kenins has shared a room with Adam Clendening this trip, so if there’s one person who could give me an insight into our 23-year-old Latvian forward, it had to be him.
”He knows four languages, that’s about all I can tell you,” said Clendening, during the bus ride to the First Niagara Center pre-game. “He’s always on the phone and either speaking Latvian, German or Russian, and just mixing it up quickly too. I never understand a word of it!”
As I write this sitting on the visiting bench with less than two hours to go before puck drop in Buffalo, one-by-one Canucks are coming out to either tape sticks, stretch or just have a moment to themselves. One-by-one I’ve asked them the same question and no one except Jacob Markstrom provided any new insight.
”He’s a smart dude, I know that,” said Markstrom. “He may not look it, but he’s smart.”
Markstrom came back 10 minutes later to report Kenins speaks four languages.
Thanks, I said, but no thanks. I already had that story.
”Oh ya,” he replied, thinking. “Well put in your fancy story that I once sat right over there in the stands and watched my first NHL game – Sabres against the Panthers.”
What does that have to do with Kenins, I asked.
”Maybe Kenins watched that game too? he laughed.
Thanks, but no thanks.
Well, to the continued.
And that concludes another epic Canucks road trip. We fly back to Vancouver post-game tonight and I’m excited as ever to see a certain four-year-old who looks just like me. He, on the other hand, is excited for the gifts in my suitcase.
He should be!
As always, thank you for following. I’m nothing without you, Canucks fans!
Pick any two Vancouver Canucks who have their dads along for the Father’s Trip and odds are good that’s a conversation they had Monday.
“Snoring was a major issue for some of us,” laughed Chris Higgins.
“My dad was sawing logs,” smirked Brad Richardson.
Fathers and sons are roommates for this two-game trip to Minnesota and Chicago and if the first night is any indication, sleep is going to be at a premium.
“Derek woke me up halfway through the night,” explained Dean Dorsett, “he told me to roll over because I was snoring so loud. I didn’t sleep a wink after that. You know it’s bad when you start playing I spy by yourself you’re so tired.”
To give the players a break and a chance to catch some z’s, the dads took a trip to the Ranham Bowling Center for an afternoon of bowling.
They’re still giggling about how much fun they had.
It was laughter all around as watching the dads 10-pin bowl was a diet version of watching the Canucks themselves.
The bus hadn’t even rolled to a stop and Tim Horvat was talking the talk. “Who’s ready to get their butt kicked?”
Horvat was all power, his strategy was to go through the pins instead of knocking them over. Think Fred Flintstone. Twinkle toes.
Rodney Burrows was one of the first dads to get a strike and as the last pin fell, he threw his arms in the air and yelled in joy. Sounds familiar.
Lane Linden got a few strikes and each time he smiled, gave a nod and sat back down. On to the next one.
Sal Corrado lived in the gutter in the first game. His unorthodox bowling throw had the fathers joking afterwards that he’ll be called back to fill in all the potholes. “I must be adopted,” joked Frankie, one of two injured players to join the dads. Sal was just happy to be there.
The award for Most Focused Bowler Ever goes to Mike Tanev, who was the most focused bowler ever. This friendly was not to gain entry to the Professional Bowlers Association, but no one told Mike, they simply respected his game.
Dean Miller analyzed angles and consistently corrected mistakes as he went. Meticulous bowling at its best.
Jan Vilhelmsson, Eddie Lack’s dad, is so incredibly Eddie Lack’s dad it’s incredible. He was animated throughout the two-hour session, he hooted, he hollered, he turned his hat backwards for luck. He was a riot.
All-in-all, the father’s bowling trip was a rousing success. These guys aren’t just becoming friends, this is a wolf pack in the making.
“We might have to have annual trips even without the sons!” someone said as we left the bowling alley.
“That was just excellent,” beamed Tim Horvat. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, I couldn’t be more thankful. I can’t stop pinching myself.”
Pinching. Good idea. The players were looking for ways to wake their dads up if snoring is a problem again tonight.
I’ll pass that suggestion on.
Farewell from Minnesota, we fly to Chicago post-game tonight and there are more adventures ahead for everyone Tuesday.
You reach a certain point on a lengthy road trip, such as the one the Canucks are on right now, where things stop making sense.
Up is down, left is right, blue is yellow, Ke$ha’s music sounds amazing and The Big Bang Theory tickles your funny bone.
You start to ponder things like why are pizza boxes square, pizzas round and pizza slices triangular? Why do dragonflies have legs, but they can’t walk? Why do I eat chips like a human in public, and like a savage, starved looney toon alone?
Don’t even get me started on the Internet. What is it? Where is it? How does it work? Think about that too much for too long and you’ll go all primal like Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in Zoolander.
I passed the point of no return early Tuesday morning when I woke up and couldn’t remember what day it was, what city we’re in or what my room number was. It’s a little like being kidnapped, except without the terror and ransom and Liam Neeson and all that. The helplessness and confusion is truly bizarre and it’ll only get worse Wednesday.
We woke up in Nashville Monday, St. Louis Tuesday and Wednesday it’ll be rise and shine in Dallas. Time travel is trippy; I’ve learned to just enjoy the ride. Be at the team bus 15 minutes early, eat when there’s food and smile – life’s too short to let the grind get you down.
There are plenty of people void of smiles today after what went down Monday at the Boston Marathon and my thoughts are with everyone affected by this senseless violence. The more details that surface, the sicker I get, especially being a father myself, knowing that a young boy was taken from us moments after hugging his dad at the finish line.
Sports always take a backseat when tragedy strikes, and for good reason. Sports are here to take our minds off the mundane, fill us with hope, joy and surprise and simply give us an outlet for the passion we are all filled with.
A tragedy like this puts everything in perspective and that’s important, especially come playoff time.
The Canucks and Blues faceoff tonight in St. Louis and it’s a potential post-season matchup; emotions will be running high with both teams in search of two points, but it’s not life or death, we’ll fly to Dallas post-game regardless of result and St. Louis will wait the arrival of Phoenix.
To all those feeling the affects of Monday’s violence, hopefully sports will act as a return to normalcy, as impossible as that will ever be again.
Vancouver’s roster features Massachusetts native Cory Schneider, a product of Marblehead, who has likely taken this to heart more than anyone else on the team. Look for him to play with a little more gusto tonight in memory of the deceased and all those impacted.
P.S. – Hug someone you love. I’ll be giving out some big ones when I get home. I miss you.
A week, four games and six points earned later, we’re back in Vancouver.
The Canucks went 3-1-0 on their four-game trip to Colorado and California; all-in-all we’ll mark the trek down as a success, although coach Willie Desjardins, despite loving his team found a way to win three games, said the boys weren’t good enough and have to be better.
That journey begins Tuesday when the Canucks host the Ottawa Senators. Until then, let’s enjoy being 11-5-0 through 16 games.
Here some of this and that from the trip that didn’t fit into earlier blogs. Oh and thanks for following along all week, it is absolutely my pleasure being able to connect you with the Canucks.
-Bo Horvat has four NHL games under his belt, but he’ll always remember his first. His nerves were getting the best of him, as he admitted pre-game when he stood beside me to tape his stick in Colorado. Upon completion Horvat retreated to the room to get dressed, but returned a few minutes later, another stick in hand. Turns out he taped a practice stick instead of his game stick the first time around. “I think I’m more nervous than I realize,” he laughed.
-Nick Bonino scored the game-winning shootout goal Sunday night, in his return to Anaheim. At the other end, Ryan Kesler, playing his first game against Vancouver, had a chance to tie as the final Ducks shooter and he hit the post. That’s a legit a made for TV movie. Drama. Suspense. Glory. And the funny thing is, Bonino wasn’t supposed to shoot first for Vancouver. Excitement got the best of Bonino and he jumped over the boards ahead of Chris Higgins, who Desjardins had penciled in to shoot first for the Canucks. Bonino scored, Higgins was stopped, Canucks win. It was meant to be.
-Staying with Bonino, post-game Sunday, right before he spoke to the media, he made sure to put on a hat. It seems I will never live down my poor photography skills. “Okay, I’m ready now guys, I’ve got my hat,” Bonino laughed, looking me in the eyes and into my soul. One day we’ll look back at this and laugh, right Bones? Riiiight?!?
-I’ve never met someone as difficult to tweet about as Jim Benning. It is literally impossible to relay how cool, calm and collected the Canucks GM is through the Twitter machine. Being around him puts one at ease, like he knows how this all plays out already and he’s 17 steps ahead of everything. Benning doesn’t complicate things, he likes his ice cream vanilla and listens to Coldplay. He’s groovy. Combine that with the reserved nature of president Trevor Linden and it’s no wonder the Canucks are playing the type of hockey they are. And I haven’t even mentioned coach Willie Desjardins.
-I’ve heard on more than on occasion now that Desjardins is the ultimate player’s coach. When he was hired by the Canucks, former players, colleagues and basically anyone who’s ever met the prairie boy jumped at the chance to sing his praises. His current players will take every opportunity to applaud how he’s approached his new gig as well. When Vancouver is waxed, which happens to the best of teams during an 82-game season, they won’t be re-watching the horror in video sessions the following day. Instead Desjardins preaches learning from mistakes in hopes of avoiding them next time; he’s coaching a veteran group, they know when they’ve messed up and he leaves it at that. So far, so great.
-No one knew if they’d see Ryan Kesler Sunday – maybe Kesler himself didn’t even know how social he’d be with his former mates. Jeff Vinnick and I went to the Honda Center for morning skate Sunday just in case Kesler said hi and right on cue, he did. A quick visit post-morning skate and then another long visit post-game; Kesler made sure he got to at least partially reconnect with former teammates and staff. That’s the Kes I’ll remember in a Canucks uniform, the nice guy only truly seen behind the scenes.
That’s it for me. We’re halfway back to Vancouver as I type this and if I don’t stop to cut the final Behind the Lens of the trip, there won’t be one.
Again, thanks for everything. Your support means a lot to me. Let’s do this again real soon, deal?
It feels like just yesterday I was blogging from the road with the Vancouver Canucks and somehow I’m miraculously back with the boys again as we jetset out on a five-game trek beginning in Calgary.
Fort Nucks, as I hope you know by now, is your one-stop-shop for everything behind the scenes Canucks when I’m on the road, but I have to apologize for my lack of bloggage whilst at home. That will change come playoff time, then it’s 24/7 Fort Nucks – you’ll be all like “nooooo, no more I can’t handle any more incredible photos and stories” and I’ll be like “ohhhhh ya, here’s another and another and another… muah ha ha ha” (that’s my evil laugh).
Back to the main event.
Not much to report right this second, we just took off from Vancouver and it’s too bright to look out the window. For a second I considered putting on sunglasses, buuuuut I have to be aware of Kevin Bieksa, the phone on his camera and his ability to humiliate me on Twitter. I can’t make it that easy for him. I actually got off lucky last road trip, he had a picture of me ready to tweet, but didn’t pull the trigger. Maybe we’re BFFs after all?!?
Oddly enough I’ve never seen or covered a game in Calgary, so I’m excited to jump a province over and enter Flames Territory. That and three of my really good buddies live in Cowtown, so, if it’s alright with you, I may meet up with them for root beer floats tonight.
This is a great trip in terms of cities: Calgary, Colorado, Nashville, St. Louis and Dallas; I’ve visited them all at least once before, but I’m always open to exploring new areas and trying new things. For those familiar with these cities, if you could recommend I do or see or try one thing in each place, what would it be?
And just like that my introductory road trip blog is complete, time for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Game of Thrones.
P.S. - Jeff Vinnick is on this trip as well and we’ll be collaborating on some Behind the Lens galleries. I know, I know, include as much Dan Hamhuis as possible. I’ll try.
For the second straight game the Canucks completed a nice comeback beating the San Jose Sharks 3-2 Thursday night. They’re 2-0-0 to start their four-game trip; spirits are high, everyone is happy, everything is awesome.
I go into the dressing room post-game to tweet out player quotes from @VanCanucks and after a win I like to include a photo of the player I’m quoting. Radim Vrbata first, then Nick Bonino, Ryan Miller third and coach Willie Desjardins to round it out.
All was fine and dandy until I got onto the media bus headed for the airport when my phone starting blowing up.
Uh oh, read one text.
LOL – YOU IN DEEP S*#T!, laughed another.
A wide-eyed emoji stared at me in a third.
What the what, I thought. My biggest fear is that one-day I’ll tweet out a photo of my son instead of the Canucks photo I intended to send and yep, today was that day.
Speling mistayke, must be. Likely a bad one – maybe I forgot the L in public and sent the most disgusting tweet of all-time. Yep, that was it.
Bonino was clearly not happy with my photography skills, or lack thereof, but did he tweet his response tongue-in-cheek?
When I boarded Air Canucks he was the first person I saw and he just shook his head. Ryan Stanton was next in line, “He is not happy with you right now,” he said.
So from here we go one of two ways: Nick and I become great friends, share milkshakes, have nicknames for each other and a secret handshake, bonded by that time I posted a bad photo, or Nick hates me forever and refuses to ever be featured on Canucks social media or Canucks.com ever again.
Now I sit, silent, high in the air, between San Jose and Los Angeles, pondering my next course of action. I’d say Nick sending out a poor photo of me is fair, eye for an eye, but with my hair and beard I’m somewhere between Cousin Itt and Harry from Harry and the Hendersons these days, so I’m a walking poor photo 24/7.
I’ve been watching too much Sons of Anarchy, I feel like my family and friends are at risk here. Maybe they should head up to the cabin. “When you get to the hotel, don’t start your room,” laughed Dave Tomlinson.
Nick, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. From now on you have final photo clearance, a privilege I’ve only ever granted to Noureen DeWulf (when Miller signed with the Canucks) and John Travolta. That’s a pretty elite group, maybe you should be thanking me after all this?
Bo Horvat arrived at the Prudential Center in New Jersey on June 30, 2013, expecting to be selected in the 1st round of the 2013 NHL Draft.
The what, where and when, he got right. It’s the who and why, those came as a surprise.
Horvat ranked 15th amongst North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings going into the draft, so being picked anywhere between 10th and 20th overall was probable.
What played out was improbable.
Vancouver, thought to be looking into trading Roberto Luongo, pulled a 180 and dealt Cory Schneider to New Jersey for the ninth overall pick. The Canucks wanted Horvat and Horvat they got.
At the time, the deal was scrutinized because Canucks fans knew what they were losing, but had no idea what they were getting in return.
Six hundred days later Horvat is back in New Jersey for the first time and complaints about the trade are minimal; it’s not like Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian deal where two forwards were swapped, however, it’s tough to measure players of varying ages and positions against each other.
Tim Horvat, who I had the pleasure of getting to know during the Father’s Trip earlier this month, worried the trade would always negatively affect how fans viewed Bo.
“His life changed forever in that moment,” explained Tim. “He wasn’t just another kid drafted into the NHL, he was a kid drafted as another was shipped away. And that was all out of Bo’s control.”
Horvat has controlled when he can control. He’s on a five-game point streak and has 17 (8-9-17) on the season putting him fourth among rookies born in 1995. Word on the street is that if Horvat were to find the scoresheet Friday night against the Devils, his six-game streak would be the longest by a Vancouver rookie since some guy named Pavel Bure strung together points in eight consecutive games in 1992.
No one will forget Cory Schneider anytime soon, he was the Canucks 24th overall pick in 2004 and he grew up with the organization. There’s something about watching someone mature from raw rookie to stellar NHLer that is endearing, look no further than Kevin Bieksa, Jannik Hansen, Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Alex Edler for more proof of that.
Frankie Corrado, let’s not leave him out.
Oh and the aforementioned Bo Horvat.
Just imagine what we’ll think of him 600 days from now if we’re already this impressed.
Greetings from New Jersey, apologies on the late blog. The team didn’t skate this morning, we bused to Newark for the game and head back to New York post-game. Then we bus to Long Island Saturday afternoon, aka tomorrow’s blog will be a late one as well.
It’s freezing cold in these parts, I hope you’re soaking up the sun in Vancouver (or wherever you’re reading from - assuming it’s sunny there too!).
Eddie Lack’s hunger was insatiable and in Chicago, that’s really saying something.
The Blackhawks are very kind to the media who cover the team at the United Center, they offer a huge buffet in the press box at the second intermission and it is debonair.
Even that couldn’t satisfy Lack.
Two years ago, Eddie Lack was the starting goalie for the Chicago Wolves, then Vancouver’s AHL affiliate. He hadn’t played an NHL game and he was starting to wonder if he ever would.
At the time, Lack was recovering from hip surgery and his spirits were understandably low. He joined me in the press box, crutches and all, and guest tweeted from @VanCanucks, which was fun and painful for the then 25-year-old.
During the superb second intermission I made up a plate for Lack and myself filled with all the necessary fixins to protrude our bellies and make us never want to eat again.
By some colossal error, some broccoli ended up in the mix.
Those healthy green trees were the only thing Lack ate from the plate.
“Green keeps you lean,” he laughed, crunching the broccoli.
The only thing Lack was truly hungry for was a shot at proving his worth in the NHL.
Fast-forward to today and he’s doing just that.
When Ryan Miller went down, the Canucks playoff hopes didn’t go with him thanks to steady Eddie, who will start his sixth straight game and 21st in the last 22 games tonight in Chicago.
A win against the Blackhawks would give Lack 17 this season, a new career-high – not bad for a guy questioning everything just 773 days ago.
“I was pretty low then,” said Lack, reminiscing. “Things have changed for the better.”
Lack isn’t about to forget how far he’s come and Blackhawks fans are always there to remind him as well.
The @VanCanucks feed was especially chirpy with Lack behind the wheel two years ago; he took some jabs at the Blackhawks in true Lack style and with the internet being the internet, his words resurface again and again to this day.
“They took screen shots and I get them sent to me all the time,” laughed Lack. “I guess that means I did a great job!”
And he still is.
“I had popcorn that game too, not just the veggies. Can’t be in the press box and not have popcorn!”
Thanks for reading, I’ll check in tomorrow from Winnipeg. It’s snowing there, surprise, surprise!
On the outside, the 19-year-old hides his obsession well. He smiles, a lot, and is loving every minute of his first season in the NHL; he’d be enthralled even if the Canucks weren’t entrenched in an epic battle to make the playoffs.
But deep down, wayyyyy down where there’s blood and guts and spaghetti, Horvat is full of questions, concerns and curiosity – and we all know curiosity did to the cat.
He can’t help himself – he has to know.
Horvat is currently living with Scoreboarditis [skore-board-it-is], a condition featuring acute or chronic inflammation of the inquisitive lining of the mind.
Sufferers lack focus due to excessive time spent on their phones and other devices updating NHL scores.
It started slow for Horvat. A peek here, a glance there – he felt a sense of wonder. That was nearly three weeks ago. Today, nothing gets past him.
“It’s intense,” said Horvat, as he settled into his seat on Air Canucks Sunday morning.
“I was interested last year, sure, but this year I’m right into it, obviously,” he added, admitting his condition has worsened over time.
Just how bad is Horvat’s Scoreboarditis? Well, last night the Canucks had a pristine opportunity to take a four-point lead over the Kings in the standings. Los Angeles was in action as well, in Minnesota, and their game began two hours prior to the Canucks game.
After the 2nd period in Vancouver, Horvat’s Scoreboarditis flared up.
“I got an update, I asked between periods. It’s not a big deal either way, I just like to be on top of it.”
Horvat believes he’s in control of his Scoreboarditis and he can rid himself of it at will.
That’s what they all say.
“I don’t watch full games or anything, but I know what’s going on and what needs to happen.”
From a medical standpoint, what needs to happen is more NHLers need to be like Bo Horvat.
Reason 5353 we love Horvat today: he’s open and honest about his scoreboard watching down the stretch.
“You bet I’m scoreboard watching,” he laughed. “It’s tough not to. We can’t control what they do, but it’s still fun.”
That’s precisely it.
Horvat, the Canucks and hockey players in general mind their own business; they try to win their games, work their way up the standings into the playoffs and win a championship. But cheering for or against opponents? That’s a rarity.
Thank goodness the Canucks are cheering against the Kings.
As of Sunday morning, Vancouver sits second in the Pacific Division with 91 points, three points up on the Kings and five ahead of the Calgary Flames, who are currently on the outside looking in.
With seven games remaining for each team, Horvat will continue doing his share of looking in from the outside as well.
The Flames are in action against the Nashville Predators as I type this, as we fly through the clouds en route to St. Louis.
Some Canucks are watching movies, others playing cards. Horvat? He’s the one with his phone to the window praying for wi-fi that isn’t coming.
Damn you, Scoreboarditis.
Are you obsessively watching scores to see how things are going to shakedown in the NHL playoffs? Please tell me you’re cheering against the Kings!?!
As always, I’d love to hear from you. And if you have any blog suggestions, shout’em out loud!
The phone rang four times before my four-year-old son answered.
“Hey bud! How are you?”
“Good. I’m playing Legos. Where are you?”
“I asked where you are daddy…”
Trying to communicate to my son, Denver, that I’m in the city, Denver, gets more fun every time.
As does coming to Denver, especially if you’re Bo Horvat and you’re about to make your NHL debut.
The 19-year-old has been dreaming of this moment since he was old enough to appreciate what it takes to get to the NHL, an age he couldn’t pinpoint. He’s gone through the game day motions today as he has thousands of times, but he’s taken deep breaths along the way to soak in as much as he can.
You only get one NHL debut. The hockey world knows of your skill, but it’s said that until you’ve put them on the display against the world’s best players, you haven’t made a name for yourself.
That likely won’t happen tonight, unless Horvat pulls a Derek Stepan and records a hat trick in his debut. Stepan is one of four players in league history to accomplish the feat and - awkward alert - he did it against Ryan Miller.
Something between Stepan’s first game and my first day working for the Vancouver Canucks would be swell.
Former GM Mike Gillis had just been hired and after interviewing him and writing what was likely an awful story, nature called. As I stood at the urinal I heard the bathroom door open, Gillis came in and went to the urinal to my left. I realized I hadn’t actually introduced myself, so I thought I’d do so while we washed our hands.
It all made sense in my head.
I was chewing a piece of gum and I didn’t want to meet my new boss with gum in my mouth. So, while still at the urinal, I swallowed my gum – or at least I tried to. I choked on it, coughed about three times, turned bright red, zipped up, washed my hands as fast as possible and basically ran out of the restroom.
Not my finest moment.
Luckily it’s very, very, very unlikely Horvat pulls a Jory, this kid has mad skills, a head on his shoulders and a great support system (his parents and brother will be at the Pepsi Center tonight).
When Horvat hits the ice he’ll become the fourth player currently on the Canucks roster to make his debut in Colorado. Eight years ago to the day Alex Edler played his first game with Vancouver on November 4, 2006, Chris Tanev began his career here with the Canucks on January 18, 2011 and Brad Richardson, then a member of the Avalanche, made his debut versus Vancouver (ironically) on November 27, 2005.