DOES NOT LOOK GOOD!!!
Canucks fans crushed after loss
VANCOUVER (CP) - Dark clouds hung over Vancouver on Tuesday. A cold rain further dampened the spirits of the city’s hockey fans.
There was anguish, disappointment and some anger as the Canucks faithful tried to digest the bitter taste of the team’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames in Monday’s seventh game of the NHL Western Conference quarter-finals.
It was deja vu for Vancouver’s beleaguered hockey supporters. For the second consecutive year, the Canucks lost a Game 7 at home to a team that finished below them in the regular season.
``It’s mostly shock, disbelief, a `holy smokes I can’t believe that just happened,’ ‘’ Della Vorshuk, manager of the popular Shark Club Bar and Grill, said of the mood of the Canuck nation.
``It’s a cry-in-you-beer kind of thing.’’
The upset loss put an exclamation mark on a turbulent year that included Todd Bertuzzi’s season-ending suspension for attacking Colorado’s’s Steve Moore, persistent rumours that general manager Brian Burke won’t be back and fears about a labour dispute in the fall.
At the city’s many Starbucks, the Canucks fate was dissected and discussed over coffee.
``Some people are very frustrated,’’ said a barista (Starbucks employee) over the hiss of an espresso machine. The city’s two newspapers announced the defeat in sombre headlines.
Heartbreak, read the front page of the tabloid Province.
Down in Flames, declared the sports section.
The front page of the broadsheet Vancouver Sun declared: Our playoff party is over.
An interview with Nobel Peace Prize winners the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Iran’s Shirin Ebadi, all visiting Vancouver, was squeezed onto the bottom of the page.
The city’s sports columnists were surly.
``While this team will be remembered fondly for the thrills it provided in the regular season, it proved conclusively on Monday night it’s lacking the substance to make a deep playoff run,’’ wrote Ed Willes in the Province.
``It’s something we’ve suspected about the Canucks for the past four years. It was there again with a vengeance in their biggest game of the season.’’
The Sun’s Gary Mason questioned the team’s effort.
``The series wasn’t lost last night, it was frittered away in earlier lacklustre efforts that were difficult to explain,’’ Mason wrote.
The Canucks finished the regular season with 101 points and won the Northwest Division championship, giving them the third seed in the Western Conference. Calgary had 94 points and finished sixth.
It didn’t take long for callers to radio sports programs to begin burning up the telephone lines. The Canucks character was questioned. There were demands for changes in both management and in the dressing room.
``There has been a love affair with the team but that only goes so far,’’ said Dan Russell, who for 20 years has fielded calls on his Sports Talk radio program.
``This one was not acceptable. There’s a lot of disappointment.’’
Canucks players and management were unavailable for comment Tuesday. Burke cancelled his weekly appearance on CKNW radio. He declined to be interviewed when contacted by The Canadian Press.
The franchise faces many possible changes over the next few months.
It remains to be seen if there will be hockey in the fall as the collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players expires.
Burke spent the last couple of months declaring himself a ``lame duck’’ GM after management said it would wait until after the playoffs to discuss a new contract. Vancouver’s third, first-round exit in four years, plus Burke’s sometimes outspoken nature, might convince owner John McCaw it’s time for a new hand on the Canucks helm.
Bertuzzi is waiting to hear if he will face criminal charges for sucker-punching Moore in an March 8 game. The team also must ask the league to reinstate Bertuzzi before he can play next year.
If there is a prolonged labour dispute some question if captain Markus Naslund will return. Naslund has one year remaining on his contract but has talked about moving his family back to Sweden.
The Canucks also must deal with the contracts of goaltender Dan Cloutier, who was knocked out of the series with an ankle injury, and speedy centre Brendan Morrison.
Rookie goaltender Alex Auld’s playoff performance could make Cloutier expendable.
Team ownership is also up in the air.
The Canucks were fined $250,000 after the Bertuzzi incident and another first-round defeat will cost McCaw millions of dollars in lost revenue.
He has been looking to sell the franchise for several years and several groups have been sniffing around. It seems unlikely anyone would buy a team until a new collective bargaining agreement is in place.