fort nucks

Win it for Burr

Hockey is important, until it’s not.

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.

Derek Jory

Can a void in space really be considered a structure? Here’s what was trending this week on Tumblr:

  • In entertainment: Jimmy Fallon bit spin-off, Lip Sync Battle, was renewed for a second season. Chrissy Teigen is expected to reprise her role as Woman In DJ Booth. And Amy Schumer returned for the spring with her feelings on butt stuff.

  • In the news: Lava and lightning and rage shot out of a volcano in Chile. And in Baltimore, protests over the deeply suspicious death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. 

  • In sports: Flips and tumbles and precarious landings on very narrow beams—all this and more at the Euros 2015 gymnastics championship. John Cena dropkicked his birthday. And even though it was trending a few weeks ago, we still haven’t figured out how Champions League scoring works. 

  • In lit: Dominic Sherwood was cast as Love Interest #1/Hero in the TV adaptation of the The Mortal Instruments series. And Shakespeare turned 451 today sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

  • In snemes: “Snail memewas trending. Good job sneople (snail people). Better luck next time, sneople (snake people).

  • In tech: A bunch of Internet people met up at the Shorty Awards and made crossover content. Also, every outfit, accessory, and hairdo in My Idol was an in-app purchase and you just spent $40,000. 

And be sure to check out some of the week’s most popular blogs:

  • Hunt the Truth (huntthetruth): If actual war reporting isn’t interesting enough for you. 
  • Fort Nucks (fortnucks): Strategic nuck reserves. 
  • Quarter Life Poetry (quarterlifepoetry): My pleasures are plenty, my troubles are two.

Image via sombresanity

War of words

Following Game 3 Sunday night in Calgary, Kevin Bieksa was asked if Flames forward Michael Ferland is under the skin of the Vancouver Canucks.

“Who suggested that? Them?” smirked Bieksa. “I think he’s pretty irrelevant so far.”

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.

Moving on.

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.

Stay classy everyone.

Derek Jory

Change up

Eddie Lack was on Air Canucks less than two minutes before he took his shirt off.

Then the pants came off.

It wasn’t a striptease and he doesn’t travel through the air up there in his underwear. This is the norm, for most of the Vancouver Canucks.

The guys arrive at the airport in style. They pull up in a ride worth more than my life and strut through security dressed like they’re on the runway – think Fashion Week runway, not airport takeoff runway; dress to impress they say and for road trips, the Canucks certainly do.

Then some do not.

Like Lack, many players aren’t on board long before changing into their comfy clothes. For Eddie that was blue shorts, a white polo t-shirt and a backwards grey hat, as the Canucks made the five-hour flight from Vancouver to New York Tuesday morning.

Who would wear a suit when dressing like you’re at the beach is an option?

Well, it’s only an option for players, first off. I can confirm no member of the team’s coaching, front office, training or media staff have ever been without shirt or pants on Air Canucks – well, there was that one time, buuuuut we don’t have to bring that up again.

To change or not to change is never discussed amongst the team, it’s an unwritten rule the guys can dress as they please while above the clouds, according to president Trevor Linden.

Linden took his suit jacket off when the seatbelt sign went off, but that’s it. “You won’t catch me changing into my pajamas,” he laughed. “Even when I played, I’d maybe change into a t-shirt, but that’s about it.”

“He’s a man of style,” chimed in TC Carling, Canucks VP of hockey administration, entertainment and content, and Linden’s seatmate.

A quick tour of Air Canucks midflight revealed the following: shorts, sweatpants, tuques, hats, t-shirts and a lot of Lululemon apparel. Oh and that the Sedins take their coffee double strong, black as night, even at night, revealed the in-flight crew.

Bo Horvat was asleep before anyone else on board and he did it in his Sunday best, full suit, although he did take his shoes off and put his feet up.

“He’s a man of style too,” said Linden, “or he’s a rookie who hasn’t learned the ropes yet. Wait until next year and he’ll be rocking the sweats like the rest of them!”

Chris Higgins is one exception, as I found out towards the end of the flight. He isn’t always suited up on board, but he prefers it.

“That’s what happens when you go to high school where there’s a dress code,” he laughed. “I’m comfortable in this, so I usually keep it on,” he said, pointing to his slacks.

Regardless of what they’re wearing, the boys aren’t wearing down as they proved Monday night in a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild. The Canucks have played 56 games leaving 26 on the horizon; they’ll play five against Eastern Conference foes during this 10-day trip that hits New York, New Jersey, Long Island, Boston and Buffalo.

Vancouver is in the thick of things in terms of the playoffs and a great showing on this trek will ease all of our stress down the stretch. Can the Canucks nab maybe seven of 10 points away from Rogers Arena, without the services of Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Kevin Bieksa or Frankie Corrado, all of whom did not travel?

Things will be fine, keep your pants on – not you Eddie, shorts are fine.

NEW YORK!

Derek

Just for laughs

Dad jokes. I was really looking forward to hearing some dad jokes this trip and I got my fill Wednesday before the fathers and guests bus departed for the game.

While the Canucks were at the United Center warming-up juggling a soccer ball in a circle, their fathers were seated at round tables at the hotel tossing jokes around. The one I had the privilege of sitting at featured Lane Linden, Tim Horvat, Dean Dorsett, Bent Hansen and Brian Matthias. The good ol’ boys.

It was just as you’d imagine. Sidesplitting.

Around and around they went, passing the baton, each taking turns holding court. And this wasn’t just average dad humour, this was quality stuff.

There was the joke about the…oh, nevermind.

Or the one where the two golfers – wait, nope.

Forget the doctor’s office joke. Hilariously inappropriate.

Definitely not the pig story. This is a family blog after all.

Okay, so maybe what was said between the dads will stay between the dads.

As we fly back to Vancouver after a rousing 5-4 overtime win over Chicago, there’s a great vibe on Air Canucks. Winning lightens the mood, but it’s more than that, it’s no longer a group of traveling strangers, all the fathers are friends. They fist-bump, they’ve traded numbers and they’ve taken hundreds of photos together – no selfies.

Thanks to Frank Clendening, a collection has been started to get this group back together again someday.

The fathers were invited to attend team video meetings throughout the trip and everyone was present Wednesday morning when the Canucks reviewed clips at the hotel. Before everything got going, Glen Gulutzan reminded players and fathers to turn off their cell phones. Almost everyone did.

Midway through coach Willie Desjardins discussing Chicago’s penalty kill, a phone rang. Not a regular gentle ring either, a jarring ringtone a 12-year-old boy would obnoxiously brag about and taunt his little sister with.

The more the phone rang, the more laughter filled the room. Heads turned in every direction looking for the culprit – Frank Clendening.

Best part: not only did his call interrupt the meeting, he answered it!

“I have no idea what he was doing,” laughed son Adam. “Just turn the phone off – DON’T ANSWER IT!”

It was Frank’s wife calling, just to say hi. She’s a sweetheart, with impeccable timing.

If your phone rings during a meeting, it’s a fine. I’m not sure if Frank ever turned over the $100 he owes.

The fact that he’ll never live that down might actually be punishment enough.

The Canucks will rest up Thursday in preparation for Friday when they face the Boston Bruins. A handful of fathers are traveling back to Vancouver for the game, others said their goodbyes in Chicago.

This was a truly epic trip for everyone involved. Thanks for following along and getting to know the men behind our Canucks, dads who not once wore socks with sandals this trip.

Victory!

Derek

Familiar territory

When Adam Clendening made his way through the airport in Vancouver last Sunday before the Canucks departed for Minneapolis, there was a young kid, maybe eight or nine-years-old, who eyed him up from a distance.

The dark-haired rapscallion, decked out in Canucks gear, was holding a white team hat in one hand, a black marker in the other. He was on the prowl for autographs and he had been quite successful from the looks of his hat, but he wasn’t done just yet.

He took a few steps towards the Canucks newcomer before his eyebrow raised and his lip snarled. He shot Clendening dagger eyes and walked away.

What. Just. Happened.

As I approached Clendening, it all made sense. The 22-year-old didn’t have much for luggage, just a black bag over his shoulder, but that bag had two prominent Chicago Blackhawks logos on it.

The enemy.

Clendening hasn’t even been with his new club two weeks, so he’s more than forgiven for the bag. Sorry kid, but learning new systems and getting acquainted with new teammates takes priority over shopping.

The former Blackhawks defenceman, who was drafted 36th overall by Chicago in 2011 and had a goal and an assist in four career games with the Blackhawks, is hoping to show his former team they made a mistake trading him away when Vancouver and Chicago faceoff Wednesday night.

And that’s not the only reason Clendening is amped for puck drop.

“Every game I played with the Blackhawks was on the road,” he laughed, leaving the United Center heading to Johnny’s Ice House for practice Tuesday.

Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Colorado. Clendening is finally coming home, as a member of the Canucks.

Ironically, the d-man has never played an away game with Vancouver. He’s faced the Wild, Jets, Sharks and Penguins, all at home.

Symmetry, it’s a beautiful thing.

“I’m excited,” said Clendening. “I was looking forward to playing here and even if it’s not how I imagined it, I’m happy to get the chance.

“You never know what goes into a trade,” he added, “but I want to show them what they traded away, what they’ll miss out on. They’re a skilled group, so I want to be at my best.”

Although Clendening was familiar with the visitors dressing room at the United Center from using it at training camps, not being in red whilst surrounded by Blackhawks and Bulls red was a touch discombobulating.

“It feels weird being in these colours in this building. It’ll be even more so come game time tomorrow.”

First game at the United Center, why not add on his first goal with the Canucks as well?

Clendening didn’t respond to that comment in words, but if you saw how hard he was peppering Vancouver’s goalies in practice Tuesday, you’d know he means business.

So does his father, Frank.

“I just need a new phone case,” he chuckled, pointing to the Blackhawks logo helping protect his iPhone.

“Not sure this is the city to find a Canucks one!”

The Canucks and their dads have Tuesday night off to explore Chicago before everyone shifts gears for gameday against the Blackhawks Wednesday.

Derek

Dream on

Alex Burrows had heard it before.

“Burr, I’ve got a good feeling about tonight,” teammates would say. “Burr, tonight’s the night;” Burr this, Burr that.

David Booth was a little more specific.

Post-game Wednesday following the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 shootout win over the Winnipeg Jets, I was standing in the Canucks hallway when Booth walked up and stopped in front of me, laughing.

“I had a dream last night Burr was going to score two goals in this game,” Booth chuckled.

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight, okay.

“No, seriously. It was freaky. I didn’t want to tell Burr and possibly jinx it, but I told him pre-game and look how that turned out.”

Burrows, marred in a streak of 36 regular season games without a goal, hadn’t scored yet this season, but he never let it get to him. He kept with the process and worked hard knowing that eventually lady luck would smile his way.

Instead Booth’s dream helped get the job done?

“I thought Boother was crazy when he told me that,” Burrows joked before Air Canucks took off for Washington Thursday morning.

“A lot of guys had been telling me stuff like that for the last 20 games or whatever. Weird that he said two goals and then it was two, man it could have been four the way I was feeling last night, but I’m not putting too much into it. Booth’s a funny guy.”

Booth didn’t assist on either of Burrows’ first two goals of the season against the Jets, or did he?

“I’d say that counts,” laughed Booth.

“I’m not sure about that,” countered forward Zac Dalpe. “I had a dream about a month ago that Burr scored and told him all about it too and then he didn’t. It was just luck, Booth got lucky.”

Did he?

Booth is a dreamer and has been since he was a child. Young Booth dreamt of someday being able to fly and he now has his pilot’s license.

Different, sure, but dreams clearly do come true.

“How about you dream I win the lottery…” I suggested to Booth.

“Funny, Sestito said the same thing!”

It’s time big Tom and I started playing the lotto.

*****

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. From the clouds above Manitoba’s frozen tundra, hope today’s Fort Nucks made your Thursday a smidgen better.

Cheers,

Derek