Growing up in a hockey-mad city, I idolized the Canucks. As a kid, you don't pay as much attention to wins or standings or special teams efficiency, and although the adrenaline rush of watching your team win is unmatched, you're always rooting for a single player. But given the economics of the league, players are drafted, signed, traded, waived, or bought out, coaches and GMs are hired, fired, and re-hired. For me, the appreciation of a single player was enough to keep me interested. When I attended Canucks games, which weren't many, considering I'm not a season-ticket holder and single game tickets can be pricey, I was watching one player and one player only: Trevor Linden. I can honestly say that I've never, ever left a game early, and I always made my dad stay until the three-star selections. It was a huge delight for me to see Linden skate in a mini-circle and give a wave to the fans, if only it lasted less than five seconds. You cheered for your favourite player, even in tough losses. So it is particularly disappointing for me to hear that the Canucks have now grown a tendency to not come out during the three-start selections.
Back in May, I ripped the Canucks for not saluting their fans after the Blackhawks ended the Canucks' playoff run on home ice. This is what I wrote:
"Vancouver fans are no stranger to disappointments. After 40 years of futility we've seen just about everything. But never have I ever seen any Canucks team fail to salute the fans after the end of the season. That perhaps was the most frustrating part of the game. Sure, most fans booed and with the way the Canucks showed up to this game I wouldn't want to stick around the rink any longer than I should, but there are fans who still cheer for them through the tough times and who still genuinely care. Vancouver's a passionate hockey town and for the team to ultimately disrespect their fans like that is discomforting. The majority of the fans left the rink with a sour taste in their mouths but that's no excuse to not acknowledge the support Vancouver fans have given the team all year." (May 12, 2010)
<img src="http://mattgunn.files.wordpress.com/2007/05/game4lost_ducks.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">I understand the bitterness after a loss. Everyone's experienced it before. Words are harder to put together. Movements are slower. You're in disbelief, then your shoulders drop and you wonder what you could've done better, then you start getting angry, wondering why you weren't good enough, having been eliminated in a similar fashion the year before. I get it. But what I don't get, is why these professionals can't suck it up and give their fans a little wave of thanks.
There are many fans who don't care - a win is a win, and after all, it is a team game. But there are also many who do care. There are a lot of kids today who wait to get an extra glimpse of Henrik, Dan, Kesler, Luongo, or whoever. If 18,859 people walk out of Rogers Arena not caring about the three stars, the players should still come out and give that one person remaining in the stands a salute. It doesn't mean a lot to us because we don't care, but there are still those who do, and given the prices these fans pay to come to games, it's not too much to ask.
On January 5, I ripped Luongo on Twitter for not coming out after being named the game's first star in a 3-1 win. It was quite obvious to me that he was upset at losing his shutout with only 10.3 seconds to go in the game. "I'm a competitor and I want to stop them all and I was a little disappointed that one went in at the end," Luongo had said after the game, after declining an on-ice interview when he was named the game's first star after stopping 43 shots. Wait. Was Luongo actually so bitter that he lost a statistic that he refused to come out and acknowledge the fans? Could he be that selfish and petty? I sure hope not.
But sure enough, after losing to Detroit in a 2-1 shootout loss, the Canucks once again failed to come out. Luongo and Ballard were named two of the three stars but neither came out. I can understand why players don't come out during road games, like Jimmy Howard, because this isn't their hometown crowd, even if there are plenty of Red Wings fans in the stands. So in both wins and losses, the Canucks just don't come out. It's not like being named a star isn't worth anything - the Canucks' Molson Cup award is annually given to the player who is named one of the three stars most over the course of the season. Luongo won the award three consecutive times, from 2006-2009. I don't get it.
Then, Iain MacIntyre reveals to us that the Canucks have "... a loose, long-standing policy against asking their players to return to the ice after losses. Ballard, in fact, didn't even know until [MacIntyre] told him that he'd been named a star and was horrified at the possibility fans might think he had disrespected them." Kudos to Ballard for actually feeling guilty about the whole thing, but what kind of organization does this to their fans? When did the Canucks become such prima donnas? We understand that the Canucks' first goal is to win and quite (unfairly) both the organization and fans think that a Cup title will all of a sudden exonerate all of the past miscues. Not really.