Instead of trying to preview tonight’s game against the Calgary Flames, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about how much I utterly despise them.
It all started when I was nine years old, watching the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Canucks, among the perennial whipping boys of the Smythe Division in the 1980s (read: any team not from Alberta), found themselves matched up against the President’s Trophy-winning Flames in the first round of the playoffs. Led by defencemen Doug Lidster and Paul Reinhardt, forwards Tony Tanti, Brian Bradley, Petri Skriko, Greg Adams, captain Stan Smyl and rookie stand-out Trevor Linden, the lunch pail Canucks were given no chance.
Yet, as is often the case in the playoffs, regular season statistics, appearances on paper, and the predictions of pundits meant nothing; the Canucks, after going down three games to one, battled back to force a decisive seventh game at the Library.
In a game that remains one of my most exciting memories of watching hockey as a kid, the Canucks unbelievably took the game to overtime, and almost won it a few times (Petri Skriko missed an open net, Tony Tanti hit the cross bar, and the Steamer famously shot the puck directly into Calgary goalie Mike Vernon’s glove on a breakaway).
But, then, after a Doug Gilmour ‘goal’ was correctly disallowed, the Flames won the game the only way they know how: by cheating. Flames centreman and frequent asshole Joel Otto barged his way into the Canucks’ crease and booted the puck into the net on a goal that would have done noted goal-poacher Ian Rush proud. Unfortunately, in the days before instant replay, the goal stood up and the Flames won the series and, eventually, the Stanley Cup.
So, you could say, the Flames won their only Stanely Cup championship, which their lame fans continue to laud over Canucks fans to this day, by cheating. By cheating the Canucks, in fact. I certainly do.
In 1994, it was time for revenge. The unfavoured Canucks were again matched up with the much-hyped Flames in the first round of the playoffs. Again, much like 1989, the Canucks found themselves down 3-1, only to come back to tie up the series and send it to a decisive game at the Library. This time, however, the Canucks had a player who you knew would make Mike Vernon look foolish on a breakaway. And that player, Pavel Bure, ‘the Russian Rocket’, was fortuitously sent in alone on a breakaway in the second OT on a long stretch pass by Canucks defenceman Jeff Brown. When he deked out Vernon and skated back towards the Canucks players jumping in the air, the euphoria was hard to describe. Nothing felt more satisfying than defeating those insufferable bastards from Cowtown.
You see, the hatred of the Shames goes beyond the club itself. It is inextricably tied up to their collection of insufferable players (Vernon, Suter, McDonald, Fleury, Roberts, Macoun, Peplinski, Otto and on to present day clowns such as Iginla, Conroy, Phaneuf, Regher, Warrener, Kiprusoff, etc.), the annoying city they reside in, the fly-by-night fans who chant ”shirts off for Kiprusoff’ and drape themselves in red replica jerseys when the going is good, yet managed to show up in numbers that threatened the survival of the franchise (strangely, in one of Canada’s ‘richest’ cities, as any Calgarian will brag to you about if you listen) when the likes of Derek Morris were plying their trade in town.
The way I see it, and this takes us back to the 1980s, is this (a comparison is a helpful way to draw out my point):
The Edmonton Oilers would routinely beat you, but they would do it with class, dignity, a sense of humble humility. Yeah, they were the best team in the league, but at the end of the day they had to return to Edmonton to live and play. A sobering reality, to be sure;
The Calgary Flames, similarly, would often beat you (though not as much as the Oilers would) but they would do it by cheating, dirty play, and with a collection of ugly, miserable bastards who made it that much more difficult to stomach losing to. And, they carried with them that new-money, newly-ascendant, and forever arrogant swagger than seems to permanently emanate from within the city limits of Calgary.
In sum, I hate the Calgary Flames, the city of Calgary, and all things related to Calgary. Nothing pleases me more than when the Canucks defeat the Flames. On that note, here’s hoping the Canucks wipe the ice with them tonight, increasing their intra-divisional record to 8-0-1.
Oh, and never forget: Otto kicked it in.