The Vancouver Canucks are in the Stanley Cup Final for the third time, which — until the NHL moves a team to Seattle — is as close as we'll get. Here's everything you need to know to follow the Canucks during the Final.
Seattle is getting close to a shot at the Stanley Cup, but that proximity has nothing to do with any attempt to bring a team to the area.
By close, we mean three hours of driving and one border crossing as the Vancouver Canucks are in the Stanley Cup Final for the third time, playing the Boston Bruins in a best-of-seven series that begins Wednesday in Vancouver.
There might even be room on the bandwagon for Vancouver’s shirttail cousins to the south. Seattle has its own hockey pedigree and a couple of minor-league teams in the area. But until someone can assemble a suitable arena, the Canucks are as close as Seattle will get to the NHL.
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That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy these finals, though. You don’t even need to wear a tuque, chug Kokanees or use “eh” to punctuate sentences to get on board with the NHL. Here’s a cheat sheet so you’ll know a Sedin from a sudden-death overtime when Game 1 begins. Consider it an Idiot’s, err, American’s, Guide to the Stanley Cup Final.
Beards — Just about everyone on the ice will have one. They’re a postseason tradition — or maybe it’s superstition — as NHL players generally stop shaving when the playoffs begin and don’t break out the razor until after their team is eliminated.
Canucks, Vancouver — They joined the NHL as an expansion team in 1970. This is the first time in three trips to the Final they will be considered the clear favorites. They were a No. 7 seed in the Western Conference in the 1994 playoffs, before losing to the New York Rangers in the Final. The Canucks had a losing regular-season record in 1982, the year they were beaten by the New York Islanders.
Cherry, Don — Former NHL player (one game) and coach (more than 500 games and two Stanley Cup Finals), best known as a broadcaster on CBC. You’ll know him by the hue of his suits — which are garish — and the volume of his incredulity — which tends to be loud. He’s known for saying outrageously antagonistic things. He’s like Canada’s version of Charles Barkley, only whiter, older and with fashion taste like Craig Sager, TNT sideline reporter.
Clarence Campbell Trophy — Awarded to the Canucks as Western Conference champions after their 4-1 series victory over the San Jose Sharks. Note that none of the Canucks touched the trophy, though. Not one. Ditto for the Boston Bruins after they won the Prince of Wales Trophy as Eastern Conference champs. That’s not the trophy either team wants.
The Metropolitans — A Seattle professional team that played in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. They won the Stanley Cup in 1917, beating the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey Association. The Metropolitans were the first American team to win the Stanley Cup. They also played in the 1919 Stanley Cup Final, which was canceled because of an influenza epidemic, and the 1920 finals.
Stanley Cup — The big prize, which is kind of like the Lombardi Trophy if the NFL allowed every player on the winning team to have a single 24-hour period with the trophy. That’s the rule with the Stanley Cup, which has over the years found itself at the bottom of a pool (Mario Lemieux’s), at Lenin’s Tomb and at the White House.
Canuck Casting 101
Kesler, Ryan — An American, he came back from injury in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals to score the tying goal in the final minute of regulation against the Sharks. That forced overtime, where the Canucks won to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
Luongo, Roberto — The goaltender, and the reason Canucks fans shout “Luuu” after a save. He was the goaltender for Canada’s gold-medal-winning hockey team at the last Olympics, and this Vancouver playoff run is changing his postseason reputation.
Sedins, Daniel and Henrik — Swedish twins, they are the main entree for the Canucks. The brothers were chosen No. 2 and No. 3 overall by Vancouver in the 1999 draft. Henrik is older by 6 minutes and considered the better passer and playmaker. Daniel is the more potent goal-scorer, and he led the league with 104 points in the regular season (41 goals, 63 assists). They are known for their intuitive chemistry, and either can take a page out of “The Social Network” and tell an opponent, “I’m a 6-foot-1 Swedish skating dynamo, and there are two of me.” Opponents are known to try to rough up the Sedins, and during a 2002 playoff series against Detroit, the physical play prompted a declaration from Brian Burke, then the Canucks GM: “Sedin is not English for ‘Punch me’ or ‘Headlock me in a scrum.’ “
The Green Men — A pair of Canucks fans who wear full-body neon green suits that cover even their heads. They taunt opponents in the penalty box with everything from Eggo frozen waffles to cardboard cutouts of famous folks like Carrie Underwood, the wife of a Nashville Predator. They gained international notoriety after the NHL forbid them from performing handstands while leaning on the plexiglass. Apparently, the Canadian constitution includes no provisions guaranteeing an inalienable right to turn yourself upside down at sporting events.
Crease — The semicircular area in front of the goal. Attacking players are restricted from interfering with the goaltender in this area. The goal itself is 6 feet wide and 4 feet high, and no matter how many times the American rubes ask, you cannot go and enlist an extremely gargantuan man to, in effect, cork the goal. No one’s that wide from head to toe.
Puck — That’s the black thing players bat about the ice. Please note that it no longer glows on your television screen. That “glowpuck” was a FOX broadcast specialty from 1996 to 1998, a goofy experiment to visually highlight the puck on TV, including a red tail when it was moving fast.
Fights — Yes, fighting is a staple of the regular season, but it largely evaporates during the playoffs. The New York Times found fighting declines by 80 percent in the playoffs, if you judge by the number of major penalties. The stakes are too high in the playoffs to risk the power-play implications of a penalty.
Periods — They aren’t quarters in hockey because the game is divided into three 20-minute periods. If the score is tied after three periods, that’s the cue for the most exciting aspect of playoff hockey: sudden-death overtime. The teams take a normal 15-minute intermission and return to play a 20-minute overtime period in which the first to score wins. That sudden-death format applies for as many additional overtime periods as it takes for someone to score.
Soft — This adjective is unambiguously bad in hockey whether it’s a soft goal (i.e., one the goalie should have easily stopped) or a soft player (i.e., one who folds up upon contact).
Stood on his head — A phrase used to describe a goaltender’s exceptional performance.
By the numbers
3 — Times the Canucks have played for the Stanley Cup: 1982 vs. Islanders, 1994 vs. Rangers and now vs. Bruins.
5 — Times the Boston Bruins have won the Stanley Cup, most recently in 1972.
6 — Players on the ice for each team at full strength, including the goalie.
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org